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Four arrested at pro-Palestine protest at Union Square in downtown San Francisco

A crowd with flags and signs gathers by a large, decorated Christmas tree in an urban square.
Hundreds of protesters calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war gathered around the giant Christmas tree in Union Square on Saturday afternoon. | Source: Joshua Bote/The Standard

Four people were arrested at Union Square on Saturday during a rally calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Three adults and one minor were arrested on charges ranging from felony vandalism, assaulting a police officer and battery. Police have not released the identity of the suspects.

Hundreds of protesters, many wearing keffiyeh, surrounded the Union Square Christmas tree in San Francisco at the protest Saturday afternoon.

Chants of “free, free, free Palestine” and “While you’re shopping, bombs are dropping” were set to drumbeats.

Several participants held signs imploring District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to drop charges against the 78 protesters who blocked the Bay Bridge during APEC in November. Other participants held signs that read “No Xmas as usual.”

“We are witnessing right now a genocide in Gaza aided by Biden and the U.S. government,” said Sammy Halimi, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

“It is important that we demand the end of war crimes, as we’re right now seeing people prepare for Christmas and spending a lot of money and time engaging with the capitalist system,” he added. “We want to bring to people’s awareness what’s going on in Gaza and demanding that people don’t forget and demand a ceasefire.”

An outdoor ice rink bustling with skaters, surrounded by palm trees, with tall buildings and ads overhead.
Protesters took to the ice skating rink in Union Square on Saturday. | Source: Joshua Bote/The Standard
A large Christmas tree decorated with red and gold ornaments, and a Palestinian flag in its branches.
A protester scaled the Union Square Christmas tree and left a Palestinian flag on Saturday. | Source: Joshua Bote/The Standard

Protesters took to the ice skating rink to wave Palestinian flags and one climbed mid-way up the giant Christmas tree and left a flag.

A police spokesman said around 2 p.m. “several people began to commit crimes ranging from assault to felony vandalism and causing property damage.” Police officers arrested the four people and transported them from Union Square.

A smaller group of about 100 activists walked down Jones Street, bringing traffic to a standstill around 3:40 p.m. The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management issued an alert at 4:10 p.m. advising the public to avoid the area around Union Square. Protesters gathered at the Tenderloin Police Station and chanted, “No Justice, No Peace.”

The demonstration began on Market Street in front of the former Westfield San Francisco Centre mall.

The activity forced the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to redirect Market Street bus service to run along Mission Street and turn around the F-Market & Wharves streetcar service at Don Chee Way for about an hour.

The demonstration is the latest in the city since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in October.