A woman who protested the Supreme Court’s expected decision to overturn Roe v. Wade while attending a Golden State Warriors championship game was allegedly injected with a sedative after being taken into custody by San Francisco law enforcement, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.
On June 13, Kareim McKnight and her friend, Amanda Piasecki, attended Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Warriors and Boston Celtics at Chase Center, where they pulled out a banner that read “Overturn Roe? Hell No!” while chanting a protest about abortion rights as they proceeeded to the main floor, according to a lawsuit filed by the office of civil rights attorney John Burris.
Security guards surrounded the pair and grabbed the women by their hands and feet and dragged them out of the arena, according to the lawsuit, which was filed against the city and its police and fire departments in U.S. District Court for Northern California.
Piasecki was released once outside of the arena, the lawsuit states, but McKnight was allegedly held down with a knee in her back and an officer’s forearm across her neck, choking her before she was handcuffed. McKnight was allegedly threatened with being injected with a “sedative/hypnotic agent” by a San Francisco police officer, before being strapped to a gurney.
McKnight told law enforcement she did not consent to receiving a sedative injection, the lawsuit states, but a member of the San Francisco Fire Department allegedly injected her anyway before she was taken to Kaiser Hospital and released a short time later.
“Giving an injection to a protester against her will is shocking and illegal,” Burris said in a statement. “In my entire career, I have never heard of a sedative being given to anyone, especially a fully restrained protester who was not a danger to themselves or others.”
Burris said McKnight was not a danger to herself or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but rather she was simply asserting her First Amendment right to protest.
“The worst part of giving her the injection was that she was strapped to a gurney, handcuffed, and therefore was not a danger to herself or anyone else,” Burris said. “She was stating that she was protesting the Supreme Court decision.”
Jonathan Baxter, a public information officer for the San Francisco Fire Department, told The Standard that he could not comment on a pending lawsuit. However, only paramedics are authorized to administer a sedative known as Midazolam when a person is experiencing “severe agitation, posing a danger to self or others.”
San Francisco fire follows the national Emergency Medical Services Authority policy, which lays out procedures that include the use of sedatives.
“It’s not a policy made by the Fire Department, it’s a policy that we follow as a requirement as a paramedic,” Baxter said, adding that the policy is applied to individual circumstances.
The state’s EMSA launched an investigation into the city fire department’s use of Midazolam after two people in custody who were given the drug died, according to a 2019 report by NBC Bay Area. It’s unclear if that investigation was completed, and officials with EMSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The alleged incident involving McKnight occurred 11 days before the Supreme Court officially announced its ruling to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion and uphold a law in Mississippi that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The ruling, which leaves the issue of whether abortion is legal to the states, came after a draft of the court’s opinion was leaked in early May.
McKnight, a Black woman, said the sedative made her sluggish and caused her to slur her words, according to a press release distributed by Burris’ office. She said she believes the color of her skin was a factor in why she was drugged and punished.
Officials for the city attorney’s office were not immediately available for comment.
Josh Koehn can be reached at [email protected]