The Chron’s story, by a reporter who wasn’t there, presents a very misleading picture of how people expressed their feelings on the Mission Moratorium
By Tim Redmond
May 29, 2015 — I am, I have to say, a bit boggled by a story that ran in this morning’s Chron. The report made it sound as if the DCCC meeting on the Mission Moratorium was a near-riot, with supporters of the Campos measure threatening and shoving the committee members who didn’t vote with them:
Campos’ frequent sparring partner on the Board of Supervisors, Scott Wiener, described the moratorium supporters as scary. “It was going well beyond passionate advocacy and attempting to intimidate and silence people who oppose the moratorium.”
“Some of them got in my face,” he added. “I had a concern I was going to be assaulted.”
By the end of the night, one committee member said she had been assaulted.
Leah Pimentel said the meeting had ended minutes earlier when she felt someone shoving her. Pimentel said the person — who she identified as Rosario Cervantes, a consumer affairs representative at the California Public Utilities Commission — told her, “you’ve shown your true colors.”
I was there. The Chron reporter, Emily Green, wasn’t. And I didn’t see anything remotely resembling what Wiener and Pimentel complained about.
Neither did any of the folks I talked to who were at the meeting with me.
“We were chanting ‘shame’ at the end, but I didn’t see anyone push or attack anyone,” Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who was among the leaders of the movement in favor of the moratorium. “It was a pretty typical San Francisco political meeting.”
There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue. Both sides showed up at the meeting. Both sides applauded when their speakers made points, and both sides made noises when the other side spoke.
The chair, Mary Jung, had to keep reminding people not to make noise when others were speaking.
If you’ve been to contested hearings at the Board of Supes, that’s pretty standard practice. And it’s not surprising that there’s so much passion and even anger in the air – people who live in the Mission are seeing the fabric of their community literally ripped apart by displacement and speculation.
This has been going on for several years now – and it’s not surprising that a lot of people believe City Hall doesn’t see it as a crisis and has been ignoring the disaster that just keeps escalating.
The difference between the board and the DCCC is that the supes operate from behind a railing, and leave through a back door. At the DCCC, the elected members and the crowd have to exit together, through a fairly narrow doorway.
So the people who voted with the developers and the people from the Mission who are terrified of what is happening to their neighborhood were all forced together for a few minutes.
Wiener told me:
“As I was walking off the stage and out of the auditorium, a number of the moratorium supporters crowded around me and made it pretty hard for me to even get out of the room. I was definitely concerned that I was going to be assaulted. After I left the building, a few of them followed me down the empty street for a block or so screaming at me.”
I don’t know what happened to Leah Pimentel. I didn’t see it happen. I’ve tried to get the police report from SFPD public affairs, but I haven’t heard back.
I know that I didn’t see any police arrive on the scene. Neither did anyone else I know who was there.
I am told that the police report mentions an 11:17pm call from a woman who said she was pushed. Maybe that happened. Maybe it was accidental – there were a lot of people in a small space. Again, I didn’t see it.
My friend Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez was there reporting for the Examiner. I am pretty sure we were the only reporters in the room.
He took video that shows the end of the meeting. In the video, Wiener walks back to talk to other DCCC members while some activists shout “shame.” I see nobody threatening him.
The person in the red jacket, who is at the front of the protest, shouting and gesturing, is Avicolli Mecca. Tommi’s loud; he’s also a die-hard pacifist who was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War. Tommi disdains violence.
In fact, he told me that he was watching the crowd pretty carefully because he didn’t want to see anything ugly break out. “We were making a lot of noise,” he said. “I even had some discussions with the folks from the other side. But I didn’t see anything resembling violence.”
Kay Karpus Walker, who was at the meeting, told me:
The people chanting were nowhere near Wiener but situated near the front of the seats and near the door. He might have passed through them (as I did) but so did a lot of other people at that time and the group made room to pass. Scary? What a crock. The chanters behaved like the small groups of people who express their anger on the steps of City Hall on a weekly basis. Considering the conditions in the city, they, we, are restrained and behaving in a traditional and time honored manner.
I don’t know everyone who was on the scene, but I know a lot of them, and I can’t see anyone in that group doing anything violent to anyone.
The video gets messy at the end because there was, in fact, someone following Wiener out the door and down the hall – that was Fitz the reporter. A consummate professional, doing his job. I saw him walk out with Wiener, politely talking to him about housing policy. I saw them standing at the door to the building.
Then I saw Wiener walk away down the street. Some of the activists shouted at him. I saw nobody follow him.
Laura Clark, who is on the board of GrowSF, told me that some of her members were afraid to speak because they felt intimidated. “People have said they felt uncomfortable,” she said.
I feel bad about that; everyone in the city has the right to speak at any public hearing, and shouldn’t feel intimidated. But honestly, from everything I’ve ever seen, the folks from the Mission who were at this hearing, and who will be at the Board of SupesTuesday, are not a violent group.
They are, as I said, upset, scared, angry. But they aren’t out in the streets breaking things (all of the very large marches have been peaceful; even the occupation of the Maximus development meeting was peaceful).
Folks: This was not a riot. The people who are complaining are way, way, overreacting.
And the message that gets sent is disturbing. It suggests that supporters of the moratorium (many of them Latino) are somehow thuggish, while the opponents (many of them white) are victims of fear and intimidation.
It wasn’t like that. At least, not the meeting I attended.