When Do We Call a Celebration a Riot? The SF Giants Win the World Series

When the final pitch was thrown and a strike out ensued, resulting in the San Francisco Giants once again becoming World Series champs, I was tempted to hop in my car and cross the bridge like I did 2 years ago to celebrate with the tens of thousands who were already out and about at local bars or at the Civic Center watching the game on a Jumbotron.

Everyone likes a winner and even more people like the celebrations and festivities that come along with winning. Everyone was upbeat last night and San Francisco was on Fire… It was on fire emotionally speaking, but within an hour of the Giants winning SF literally was on fire.. All over the city bonfires were being lit.. One was downtown on Market street. Another was on 19th and Mission. Another on 23rd and Mission.. Still another was near the police station on 16th and Valencia which was the scene of raucous Occupy protest a few weeks ago.. With each bonfire came people by the hundreds and wasn’t long before folks were tossing in everything they could get their hands on, couches, card board paint cans and other flammable which caused loud bomb-like explosions. Eventually a bus was lit on fire around 3rd and Market in the heart of downtown. We also saw a security truck flipped over with the driver in it..he got out unharmed.

This is the SF Chronicle headline..to describe last night’s vandalism

As each fire was lit and reported on by local newscasts, I couldn’t help but note the tone and wording used to describe the scene. We didn’t hear words like anarchist, outside agitators or thugs to describe those committing wanton acts of vandalism. Instead what we heard was local news outlets like NBC described what was happening as ‘instant street parties’. Others like ABC talked about how exuberant fans and overly joyous fans were celebrating in front of bonfires.

Reporters would utter the word vandalism in the most casual tone and downplay the smashing of bank and storefront windows, crowds chanting ‘F– Tha Police and cars being burned or flipped. The main focus by these local news outlets was about highlighting the excitement around this world series win.

It was hard not to contrast the sanitizing words used to described the destruction happening all over the city of San Francisco with how many of those same news outlets described Occupy, Oscar Grant and anti-war protests where far less damage and mayhem was caused. It was hard not to contrast the way many of those media outlets described spirited celebrations in neighboring Oakland ten years ago (2003) after the Raiders won the AFC Championship.

At that time, one car was flipped over on International Blvd and burned and the entire city was described as one that was in turmoil ‘out of control ‘and the scene of a riot. If you don’t believe me take a look at the picture that ran in the same SF Chronicle where the headline this morning reads ‘SF Giant fans Delirious With Joy‘. Again this is in spite of the fact that celebrating fans burned a city bus in the middle of downtown on top of flipping a car.. As you can see the SF Chronicle headline described the much smaller Oakland celebrations in much more stark ominous tones..using words like ‘Raider Rage‘ and ‘Street Mayhem‘.

This was the scene last night on Market street.. At the time this security truck was flipped over local news outlets described it as ‘over joyous fans celebrating and getting a little out of hand’.

We could spend more time making similar comparisons to the words used to describe more recent events especially since both Occupy Oakland and Occupy SF had one year anniversaries. If you look at the coverage of given to occupy you heard news casters talk about the menacing Black Bloc and how everyone should board up their windows and be prepared. As one Facebook poster jokingly noted on my page last night, its funny that media didn’t warn businesses to watch out for the marauding bands of Orange and Black bloc folks

Even the police when interviewed held measured tones. On ABC news, one of the SF Police captains talked about how his officers were doing all they could to keep everyone safe and the celebration going. In fact at one point, officers on motorcycles came to 19th and Mission while the bonfire was going and gently moved the crowd back vs outright dispersing them.

On one of the live streams monitoring the stuff on Market street, you saw Giant fans getting all up in the face of SFPD talking smack. The police exercised lots of patience not arresting folks or anything like that..Eventually they gave dispersal orders, but the demeanor and overall tone taken was way different from when people were out marching against banks and foreclosures or when folks were protesting the shooting deaths of Kenneth Harding or Charles Hill. The tone taken by SFPD was much harsher as protestors were demonized before they even started. The police message was one of immediate containment, shut down and dispersal. If folks recall we saw over 120 people arrested during an Oscar Grant protest where no bonfires or windows were broken.. We saw over 400 people arrested during an Occupy protest here in the Bay w/ no bon fires. Last night we saw SFPD literally make a walk way to one of the bon fires people lit in celebration of the Giants winning. Throughout most of the evening hardly anyone was arrested, before the night was over close to 40 people were arrested by SFPD.

Imagine if this was an Occupy protest.. would the news outlets reporting this use such sanitizing words?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not pointing all this out because I want to see a police state nor am I condoning vandalism.. I’m also not naive, I realize that after most sports wins there are crazy celebrations that take place all over the world.

It was just last year we had folks going nuts in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup was won. I attended UC Berkeley and recall after damn near every Big Game between Cal and Stanford folks went nuts busting windows and setting fires.Heck I recall how folks flipped car and set fires after Penn Sate coach Joe Paterno was fired..

What I do want people to note is how and when media outlets and the police themselves turn up the ‘fear and danger’ ratchets and when they don’t . I want people to ask themselves and the people doing the reporting why they take particular tones. Last night I tweeted several requests to Bay Area ABC News publicly asking them what do they consider the difference between a riot and a celebration? I never got a response. What I concluded is they and other news outlets are quite deliberate in the tone that they set . More often than not that tone is attached to a political and economic agenda.

This is a scene from an Occupy Oakland demonstration. here the words anarchist, black bloc and outside agitators were used to describe the scene before police moved in in full riot gear w/ weapons drawn.

San Francisco is a tourist city and image is everything if it expects to attract visitors and businesses. The result of this is all hands are on deck to keep a smiling face on what many would consider unacceptable and outrageously dangerous conditions. Hence a riot in San Francisco when done by a whiter and more affluent crowd is just a few ‘delirious with joy fans celebrating a bit too hard‘. The police are restrained and they go all out to ‘protect and serve..

When its a protest challenging the police, unfair economic conditions or a mostly Black and Brown fan base in a city like Oakland ‘expressing their joy, than ‘celebrations‘ turn in ‘street mayhem over run by thugs‘.. Protestors are tarred as out of control anarchists etc. Police are no longer restrained but instead use the large crowds as an excuse to test out new weaponry and crowd control maneuvers. Its social engineering at its best..

Something to think about as we gear up for a big parade to celebrate the San Francisco Giants being World Series champs once again…

written by Davey D

The scene on 19th and Mission Last night after the Giants won and people began ‘celebrating photo: Jill Filipovic

18 comments on “When Do We Call a Celebration a Riot? The SF Giants Win the World Series

  1. Completely on the ball. It seems like Oakland is the punching bag for the rest of the Bay Area when it comes to media.

    One correction though. Not that it justifies what happened in any way, but Vancouver erupted after the Canucks LOST in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins. Just like what happened in 1994 when they lost to the New York Rangers.

  2. Thanks for writing this, I was wondering this exact same thing reading the headlines last night. From what I saw there was far more property damage last night in SF than in all of the last years Occupy Oakland protests combined. One broken bank window in Oakland is automatically “anarchy”, bonfires on every corner in SF is a “street party”. One of these things is a threat to the status quo, the other is another consumer spectacle. No real mystery to me what the Chronicle and other media are protecting.

  3. Davey D —– You posted a glaring truth about local media, particularly San Francisco Chronicle. Over the years I’ve noticed increased censorship, especially surrounding the behavior of a “model minority” that they take extra pains to protect from constructive criticism. The editors, not the readers take it upon themselves to remove certain comments while allowing the examples you stated.
    Will your article cause to examine themselves? I doubt it.

    If they make racially-charged innuendo concerning other Bay Area cities, then they should use the same brush to paint what happened in San Francisco last night.

  4. Unfortunately as you so thoroughly point out in this excellent article is that unfortunately, discrimination is still clearly present today as it has always been. I suppose the slight difference is that now not just blacks are being targeted but generally anyone in a less favorable economic situation these days seem to be targeted whether it be Black, Mexican, Uneducated, Obese, White (if they are poor!) and many others are the current target. It is now a battle between the rich corporate backed tech salaried NIMBY-ers and the working families, single moms, and poor and any foreigners that do not go into the wild work world of technology or engineering. I think it is interesting that discrimination always seems to exist, but it moves from one group to another to victimize. It has been the blacks, Chinese, women, gays, poor, fat and other colors here in the past hundred and fifty years here and look how many of those have been pulled off the list because it is not “PC” to think that way anymore. It is kinda funny because i am starting to find myself becoming discriminating towards this new influx of residents that are sucking the life of the city out due to their fear of anything different than themselves. I have to be careful because it only takes a seed to stereo type an entire group who not all could be that bad in. Never trust the media and govt. There is ALWAYS AN ALTERIOR MOTIVE when it comes to the spin… good or bad… they put on any incident. Afterall they say the winner is the one who writes the history book. Too bad the winner usually seem to be the bad greedy ones.

  5. Yeah its a riot… If they want to destroy stuff have a separate space,place, and stuff where they can do that safely. Its a Riot when minorities are doing it. Everyone else it different.. LOL (4)

  6. Wow. I don’t follow baseball, so I never knew who won or that this even occurred. This most definitely is a RIOT but since it wasn’t involving minorities and included “AMERICAS FAVORITE PAST TIME” it was a CELEBRATION. BS!!! 6

  7. bluepearlgirl’s, interesting that you mention “fat” and “obese” because obesity is epidemic in all races and classes and not just confined to one group.

  8. I think it’s not as simple. Comparing a photo of vandalism from a celebration vs. vandalism from a protest doesn’t necessarily lead to me thinking “yeah, they’re the same, but one gets so much unfair negative attention,” because the reason for the vandalism affects how much uncertainty the viewer might feel. A bonfire in the street celebrating a sports victory will get cleaned up within days, the vandalism will end that night, and enough people are out and about during the street party to get pictures of vandals, communicate with police to arrest them, etc.
    Vandalism from a protest might not end tomorrow. It might close down businesses and discourage foot traffic through the area for days, weeks, maybe months. The people participating might not have a good relationship with the police (this is probably where racial issues make a huge difference). Also, the participants are acting out of anger rather than excitement, which is going to cause more apprehension from non-participants.
    Thank you for posting the provocatively similar pictures to showcase the different reactions and getting a conversation going.

  9. Pingback: When Do We Call a Celebration a Riot? | Real Chronic

  10. I can’t help but look at this situation through the prisms of civil obedience and capitalism. Baseball is a highly lucrative form of entertainment, so celebrating it is implicitly approved of, and the collateral damage to property through “over-exuberant” vandalism, is begrudgingly accepted and downplayed. Riots and protests are seen as anti-state, and in the case of the “occupy” protests, anti-capitalism. Anything that threatens the established order, or the capitalist machinery that feeds dollars to the rich, is not tolerated by the puppet media. To be clear, I don’t condone vandalism of anykind.

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