Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Uncategorized About inconvenience and protests

About inconvenience and protests


Restaurant workers at SF are inconvenienced every day by low wages
Restaurant workers at SF are inconvenienced every day by low wages

By Tim Redmond

DECEMBER 15, 2014 – When workers at San Francisco International Airport restaurants went on strike last week, Mayor Ed Lee’s response was first to try to convince labor leaders to call it off. After two-thirds of the restaurants opened anyway, Lee decided he could back down; “I was ready,” he told the Chronicle, “to send food trucks if I had to.”

The mayor, of course, was worried that the travelers, already facing delays because of a rainstorm, wouldn’t be able to get anything to eat. I don’t think any of them would starve to death or suffer malnutrition in the course of a few hours – but they would be inconvenienced.

Commuters trying to get on BART or move along some East Bay freeways during the #blacklivesmatter protests were inconvenienced, too. Some critics have complained that the protesters alienated potential supporters with tactics that slow down travel and force people out of their daily routines.

I’m not a fan of looting, smashing windows, and punching people to make a political point. When I used to go to very, very long meetings in the days of the anti-nuclear movement, we argued forever (and we weren’t even drinking, it wasn’t allowed) over whether property destruction counted as “violence,” which we were all against. My position: It is or it isn’t, but it rarely helps the cause.

But interfering with the commute? Making people stop and say: Whoa, what’s going on here? I’m not sure that’s such an awful thing.

Critical Mass used to get blasted by people who couldn’t get their cars out of crowded downtown streets. Anyone want to say, today, that Critical Mass was a mistake? Every time I got stuck behind the mass of bicycles, I’d say to myself: Why, exactly, am I in a car in downtown SF anyway?

I didn’t really want to start this fight on 48hills, but when I read this, I thought someone in the San Francisco media needed to speak for the protesters. Consider what James Harrell has to say:

Is my momentary uneasiness fair at this time? No, probably not. I didn’t do anything to create this broken system. However, my uneasiness will pass. Will an African-American man who is 6’4 and 220 ever not be concerned while in the presence of the police? Frankly, I can’t imagine that reality.

As a millennial, I have the privilege of being familiar with all the protests that have come before, but only in a history class. Because of these protests, I’m able to have the weekend off, get paid time off, use a bus when I break my leg, identify as queer, and live and work while maintaining a relatively great life. If it weren’t for folks that fought so hard to assure these rights, all American lives would be worse off. Though many are judgmental of these current protests, all of us benefit from past revolutionaries.


Black people are pretty much inconvenienced by the police pretty much every day. When white people are a few minutes late on the freeway, they might think about that.

There are always black-bloc anarchists in large Bay Area demonstrations. There are also, pretty much always, members of the Revolutionary Communist Party and other sects that speak of the need for violent overthrow of the United States (and capitalism, and pretty much everything else).

There are also, apparently, undercover cops, and possibly agents provocateur.

Other than giving up street protests, I’m not sure what the peaceful activists can do about that. Except to greatly outnumber them, which is what we did at most of the big antiwar rallies.

I am completely convinced that most of the anger in the streets was legitimate, an outpouring of disgust at the idea that the police can shoot young black men with impunity.  I also know, after many years of experience with the San Francisco left, that there are always (a few) people who like the idea of rioting in the streets and breaking stuff. If they get all the news attention, as they have, the news media are missing the point.

Not every protest has a specific demand. Not every spontaneous, or even organized, march in the streets is aimed at a particular piece of public policy or legislation. Sometimes we’re just out there to say: What’s going on right now isn’t okay. Sometimes it’s about saying to the nation, and the world: We in this community are so unhappy that we’re going to take to the streets in numbers and show you.

Later, after that message is delivered, there’s always time for legislation, lawsuits, and the rest of the policy agenda.

When the workers at SFO made it hard for some travelers to get a sandwich or a beer, they made a point to the vendors and to Airport management. (SFO doesn’t control the food outlets; those are individual vendors organized through a management group. But SFO does select vendors – and, as with the Giants at AT&T Park, the venue operator has some long-term influence over whether there’s labor peace.

So yeah: Inconvenience. Let’s look at the larger context.


Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


  1. If you notice, the protests are only happening in a few very carefully chosen neighborhoods. And those are where there are a lot of non-whites living. So when the protest closes down West Oakland BART, it is mainly hurting blacks. When 24th St. BART is closed, it’s mainly hurting Hispanics.

    And the looting and destruction is being done to black and hispanic communities. There has been no inconvenience to any affluent white person living in Pacific Heights.

    So who are these protesters really inconveniencing? Mostly their own community. And I have seen no evidence that a majority of blacks support these protests or are even concerned about the fact that the odd criminal ends up suffering because of his own actions.

    Gentrified areas have been spared any inconvenience, just like they suffer from far less crime. Another argument for the benefits of gentrification, of course.

  2. 4thGen,

    I do live in SF. My home is currently in the west Mission, but I have lived and owned properties in other parts of the city.

    I’ve no idea who renee thinks I am but she is wrong.

  3. You are exhibiting exactly what some of these protesters are exhibiting – a massive amount of intolerance towards anyone with a different political opinion.

    Why do you find it so hard to debate an issue without becoming angry and hateful? It inhibits your success and persuasiveness.

  4. What “community”, Greg? The protesters are about 0.01 of one percent – a few hundred in the bay area. Five million bay area residents are not protesting but getting on with their lives.

    And it’s the same few hundred who protest everything

  5. The laws about where to sit on a bus were arbitrary. Nobody was inconvenienced when people could sit where they wanted. Moreover Ms. Parks was not a criminal.

    We just had an election and there was a big swing to the right. You’re dreaming

  6. America doesn’t do revolution. We’re all too fat and happy. Have your protests because it makes you feel better but the cops have popular support, as you can tell from these jury findings. When in doubt the people will back the cops over criminals every time

  7. I have a lot more sympathy for the victims of criminals than for the criminals themselves when their crimes lead to harm to themselves. And I have sympathy for the cops who keep us safe from these villains every day and who have to deal with intolerable stresses.

    Race has nothing to do with it.

  8. As usual, you cannot refute my argument, and so just attack me instead, despite Tim’s specific instructions for folks not to do that

  9. And who appointed you the spokesman for the entire SFBA? From everything I saw, the community was extremely supportive. The entire SFBA erupting in protests for the last week and a half, to me, is a sign that people are sick and tired of the police crime and impunity.

    The examples of the pushback from police unions against even the most modest reforms that Gary mentioned show that it’s not just a few bad apples. There’s a culture of impunity in the ranks. The cops are showing that they’re completely tone deaf. They need to understand that they work for us, not the other way around.

  10. Sorry but people who do not cooperate with the cops? No sympathy. And people who block abortion clinics – should be arrested, people who loot/burgle/vandalize? No sympathy. And honestly, the entire SFBA is getting super tired of the white trustfunder protestors. And that effigy @UCB the other day where the entire media blamed WP for it without realizing it was a LGBTQ/POC artist collective….figures. Seriously, Tech is going to change this entire area, and I’m glad.

  11. Stirrings Scared Babbit stirrings. I do believe it is a bit different this time around as one does not have white liberals of convenience leading the pack but many folks who don’t have very much to lose. Folks who haven’t got what you have and can not worry about what comes next when their brothers are being gunned down in the street.. Yes let us hope that sometime someone will come up with what will replace all of the mess perhaps your voice and vision is needed scarred Babbit.

  12. Revolution? The only way revolution is ever successful is when there are leaders that people on the fence respect and will support (or at least not oppose), and if there are cogent visions for what comes next after the revolution. It’s true there is some excitement in the streets that feels like the 1960’s. But similar to then, the action in the streets seems mostly reactionary to the status quo without much vision of what comes after the politicians are exiled to Alba, the military and militarized police forces are locked up in Guantanamo and the landlords are exiled to China, Korea and India, countries that revere and adore the landlord class. It’s not enough to say we don’t like this policy or that institution. Without a clear idea of what will replace particular policies or institutions, then most of us will not be drawn to the “revolutionary” fervor. Humans tend to avoid change unless pushed. And we tend to avoid confrontations and violence even more.

    The dissenters on the left have always had the problem of too many visions for what will come after a “revolution,” coupled with their extreme hated for other leftists who don’t share their particular vision. It’s the Tower of Babel writ large. About 70% of us have jobs that provide some level of security and human engagement. Will we still have those jobs after the “revolution?” And if we ban the police forces that display hostility and hatred towards those they are policing, will other institutions replace them? If we dismantle the ever-powerful US military-industrial complex, will there be anything that takes its place in a sometimes hostile world? And if the left ever tries to work with other marginalized groups like the libertarians and Tea Baggers, will the left demand its way or can they embrace people who also don’t like the status quo, but are hesitant to embrace the often paternalistic policies of the left?

  13. Reminder: Rosa Parks “inconvenienced others” in Montgomery Alabama. Injustice is messy, and righting a wrong usually requires a lot of inconvenience or worse.

    Sad to say, but it appears that protests, and all of the messy stuff that goes along with them, seem to be the only action that gets adequate response to right a wrong.

    In these cases of police using unnecessary, deadly force and/or being racists, the police unions are ‘doubling down’: The police union in New York is demanding the the mayor not attend any police funerals; the police union in Richmond is blasting its own police chief for carrying a ‘black lives matter’ sign in the peaceful protest; the police union in St. Louis is blasting the Rams for allowing players to wearing ‘hands up don’t shoot’ tee-shirts.

    This is going to get uglier before it gets better, and if this isn’t resolved by the next election, it will divide the country.

  14. Well stated Greg, as usual. Sam is a bully, like the kid who is winning the game but needs to taunt and demean the other side during the beatdown. I’m guessing that’s one reason he posts on this website so much. Bullies tend to be very lonely people without many friends and often come from hateful, dysfunctional families. He epitomizes the SF landlord class – demean your opponents (tenants), celebrate your political heroes who perpetuate the extreme class divisions (Ed Lee), and taunt anyone who tries to speak on behalf of those getting the beatdowns.

    And S(p)am, don’t bother replying. Your game is is very tiresome, but that’s the point isn’t it? Both you and the black bloc make the environment so hostile and toxic that most people will avoid the marches and avoid websites filled with toxic, hateful rants. You need to argue every cogent point made by the article writers (mostly Tim) and you respond to any post that disagrees with your tactics or your narrow, hateful points of view. From what I see your tactics are failing. We’re seeing more posters on the site who most often reflect the inclusive, hopeful values of the SF left. Even landlord Pete has expressed some empathy for down-trodden, at-risk tenants who fear eviction from their homes.

  15. I decided never to bother to argue with Sam (at least he gets folks to sit up and take notice even if he is rather irritating to many) or anyone about the many roads of revolution, and this baby just may be the stirrings of revolution but just want to thank you Tim for this article. LGBT folks must remember how we have acted out many times in the past, Really the actions of an unheard minority of a sick and tired people and a people who said loud and queer NO!

    We all know that someday the real deal shit will hit the fan and then one can expect that there will be all types of actions. Perhaps today some are more ready than others and have no desire to support the state with peaceful protests,kiss kiss with the cops, or singing Kumbaya my lord, as we know no savior from on high delivers.

    Again Tim thanks, sitting here on the east coast it’s great to read 48 Hills.

  16. Greg, but if I have no credibility here because my views are consistent, then your views are also easily dismissed, because you are always on an endless tirade against the police.

    But the circumstances of these incidents is less important to Tim’s topic than the issue of which protest tactics are persuasive and legitimate, and which are excessive.

    And my point was that if a protester personally inconveniences me, then that stiffens my resolve to not support his ideas, whatever they are. I would be less likely to oppose abortion if their protesters cause harm, damage or distress. You cannot bully people into submitting to your will.

    As for the incidents in question, some were reasonable and some more questionable. The Brown shooting looks perfectly legit to me. The Garner death is a little more unclear – he died some time later from a heart failure and I’ve seen no evidence so far that directly relates that to the fact that he was temporarily restrained by a particular kind of hold.

    Nieto was a fair shoot, IMO, while the Grant shooting was more an unfortunate accident than a deliberate act.

    The point is that each act must be considered on its own merits, rather than as part of your “war on cops”. And, as noted, the issue here isn’t about the merits or demerits of each of these incidents, but rather that you express your opinions with consideration and respect for others. You cannot ask for respect for others while disrespecting others yourself.

  17. “When I read about the lootings, it made to less sympathetic to the alleged “victims” of the police.”

    You have zero sympathy to begin with, so less is impossible. You put “victims” in quotes and you justify police murder as a “good clean shoot,” like they’re hunting deer for meat. You’re an apologist for state repression; you constantly crow about how “comfortable” you are with even the most atrocious violations of civil liberties. Do you honestly think that you have any credibility with anyone who reads these pages? Doubt it. You’d have to be quite divorced from reality to think that. I think you write to offend and get a rise out of people. You’re basically an online vandal, not much different than people who riot after a sports game without any purpose but to act out and destroy.

  18. There are really two questions here. The first is whether violence, looting and destruction are valid tactics. I think it’s fair to say that there is little disagreement there. It is not justified and nor is it effective. If anything it causes a backlash, because nobody wants to give in to terrorists. When I read about the lootings, it made to less sympathetic to the alleged “victims” of the police. And remember that it was the peaceful MLK who helped deliver civil rights, and not the aggressive and violent tactics of Malcolm X or the black Panthers.

    The second question raised is about inconveniencing others. There the issue is more nuanced. In principle it is also wrong by virtue of the above argument. It’s generally harder to convince and persuade someone if you have just pissed them off. Bribery works better than blackmail. And in the case of the SFO workers, you don’t affect the wealthy because they eat and drink in the airline lounges, You affect people who have given up their hard-earned money to visit SF and don’t vote here anyway.

    But the opposite argument is that if you inconvenience nobody, then nobody will even notice your protest. Perhaps so. But a good way to think about this dilemma is to look instead at an example where the right-wing are protesting and the left support the status quo.

    Take abortion for instance. Very few people think that the murder of doctors who carry out abortion is justified. But what about blocking an abortion clinic? Intimidating the staff and patients? Delaying people going in and out?

    If you think those tactics are fair, then you probably think that blocking BART or a freeway is fair. But we as a society have generally come around to the idea that there should be limits and rules about protests against abortion.

    On that basis, we can reasonably demand that protests against cops, Iraq or anything else follow similar rules of consideration for others. Make your protests seen and heard, but do not behave towards others in a way that you would not want abortion protesters behaving against your sister or daughter.

    Or, to echo Tim’s universal and eternal request – conduct yourself with civility. Tolerance is a two-way street and blindly assuming that you are right and that others are wrong can quickly lead to intolerance and conflict.

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