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Watch: San Francisco sideshow blocks traffic at major intersection

a car is seen in an intersection surrounded by a crowd of people from a distance
A still from a video shows the scene at a sideshow in San Francisco early Sunday morning. | Source: Courtesy Robert Ristelhueber

A sideshow blocked traffic at a major San Francisco intersection for around 20 minutes on Sunday morning, an eyewitness who shot video footage of the incident said. 

San Francisco resident Robert Ristelhueber shot the footage from his apartment above the intersection at South Van Ness Avenue and Mission Street. The bustling intersection connects five streets, including Otis and 12th streets, and is close to a freeway on-ramp.

Ristelhueber says he has seen it all during his 11 years in the city, ranging from packs of motorcycles roaring through the area to sports cars with loud engines, but he’s never caught a lengthy video of a sideshow from his apartment before.

“It was around 12:30 a.m., and the noise from the street was getting louder and louder, so I looked outside the window,” he said.

San Francisco resident Robert Ristelhueber shot the sideshow footage from his apartment above the intersection at South Van Ness and Mission streets. | Source: Courtesy Robert Ristelhueber

READ MORE: A Night in the Life of a Sideshow: Stolen Cars, 720 Citations, 82 Juveniles and a Ghost Gun

That’s when he decided to shoot a video. The footage shows traffic backed up around the intersection as a large crowd of pedestrians gathers to watch multiple cars revving loudly and spinning around the intersection. 

“It was just insane,” he said, adding the Chevron gas station below his residence was completely packed with cars. “What was really just shocking was the amount of people there. Hundreds of people. [It] looked like this was a well-organized event.”

Chevron employee Gustavo Martinez said he didn’t witness the sideshow but heard about it as it drew “quite the crowd.” He said the gas station wasn’t damaged during the show.

From Ristelhueber’s perspective, all entrances into the area were blocked off so that police could not get to the intersection.

From start to finish, the sideshow participants and spectators were there at the intersection for about 20 minutes, Ristelhueber said.

“After they were done with their driving around, they started to disappear,” he said. “Everyone left almost all at once. All the spectators took off, and then the police came at that point. About 10 police cars.”

Ristelhueber said he didn’t see anyone get arrested in the aftermath and didn’t see any driver or spectator get towed.

Video of Sunday's sideshow in San Francisco shows a huge crowd of spectators at Mission Street and South Van Ness Avenue. | Source: Courtesy Robert Ristelhueber

“They just kind of melted away into all of the traffic,” he said. “It really did seem like this was a well-organized thing.”

Ristelheuber said he feels like the police aren’t equipped to handle the sideshows as they happen but should focus on preventing them from starting.

“They haven’t seemed to figure out how to prevent these,” he said. “Once they start with all the cars running around the intersection, the police can’t get through. I think you have to stop these before they really get started, and I don’t think police have figured out how to stop it when it gets going.”

A spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department confirmed the incident and said no arrests were made after vehicles and spectators fled the scene when officers arrived.

Joel Umanzor can be reached at