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Protesters, police clash at Gaza cease-fire march in downtown San Francisco

A dozen protesters hold flags and stand behind one side of a metal barricade as three uniformed and helmeted police officers watch from the other side.
San Francisco police officers observe Saturday as protesters gather against a metal barricade blocking Montgomery Street near the Israeli consulate. | Source: Courtesy Arab Resource Organizing Committee

A scuffle broke out during a pro-cease-fire rally Saturday, in which activists said police pepper-sprayed several of the demonstrators.

San Francisco police said the Global Day of Action for Palestine march calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war began peacefully around 3 p.m. as officers escorted a group of several hundred people "exercising First Amendment rights" outside the Israeli consulate near Sacramento and Montgomery streets.

But, according to an SFPD statement issued late Saturday, the gathering turned violent when some in the crowd "became violent and began to commit crimes ranging from assault to felony vandalism and causing property damage."

Some demonstrators eventually marched to Embarcadero Plaza before dispersing. Several officers, along with one protester, suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

In a media advisory issued late Saturday, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center claimed law enforcement had sprayed several people during the protest, including a rally police liaison who was using a wheelchair.

The group provided videos with the advisory that appeared to show a police officer aiming pepper spray at a demonstrator across a crowd-control barrier. Another video showed officers swinging their batons at demonstrators who were surging along the barrier.

The activists claimed one demonstrator had suffered broken hands in the scuffle.

"SFPD's violence today against a peace protest is yet another appalling attack on our already vulnerable San Francisco community," said Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

The police did not address the allegations that officers had used pepper spray and batons against the protesters.

Kiswani said the group was demanding "accountability for those responsible for this harm against our community members," adding that the community has a right to protest the war, which has killed an estimated 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas killed around 1,200 people and Israel embarked on a ruthless counterattack.

Since then, protests against the conflict and U.S. support of Israel have been a regular occurrence in San Francisco. Activists have organized high-profile demonstrations, blocking major bridges and intersections in the city.

Police said the event remains an open investigation.