On Sunday, San Francisco mayor London Breed announced a mandatory 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for the city, beginning that night. After ten weeks of Covid-19-related shelter-in-place, San Francisco is going into an actual lockdown, possibly its first mandatory curfew since martial law was imposed after the 1906 earthquake. The move was precipitated by riots and looting in the city on Saturday night, part of nationwide unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee. After a week of riots spreading around the country, the violence reached San Francisco, with stories of vans and trucks double-parked while loading goods looted from downtown shopping destinations.
The curfew is a decisive step by Mayor Breed to prevent San Francisco from falling into the trap of Oakland, its neighbor across the bay. Just a few minutes by bridge or tunnel from the economic and real estate hotspot of San Francisco, Oakland should have boomed. Downtown Oakland, however, has seen too many empty storefronts and lots (though that situation has recently taken some positive turns). Oakland was always the first place to riot, loot, and burn. Time and again, downtown Oakland saw street violence after police shootings, Super Bowl losses, and other controversies. It was widely believed that many rioters were not from Oakland but came to the city because of its reputation as a place to break things.
Until Saturday, San Francisco had not seen rioting or looting on that scale, with some smashed windows in 2014, amid the Ferguson protests, being about the worst things got. Imposing the curfew may be Mayor Breed’s most significant decision in office if it stops rioting and prevents San Francisco from going down Oakland’s road. Taking that path, together with economic instability from the virus shutdown, could be devastating to San Francisco. Let’s hope that the curfew proves effective, and that San Francisco remains the Bay Area city that does not lose control.