Sponsored link
Saturday, April 1, 2023

Sponsored link

News + PoliticsCrashing the Super Bowl party

Crashing the Super Bowl party

The Super Bowl is for the very rich, but the people who struggle to live here on the streets every day made a strong statement for the national media

The national news media got a look at San Francisco beyond the (boring) glitz of Super Bowl City and stage-managed press conferences tonight as some 500 protesters showed up near the Ferry Building to send a message that the city’s homeless policy is cruel and unacceptable.

Much of the protest focused on the mayor's failed housing policies
Much of the protest focused on the mayor’s failed housing policies

The police were out in full force. Insanely full force.

The event was supposed to happen in the largely open plaza outside the closed Sinbad’s restaurant. But an hour before the start, Port of San Francisco workers were fencing off that area, making it a bit difficult for ferry commuters to catch their rides home.

The Port made everything much more difficult by fencing off what would have been the protest area
The Port made everything much more difficult by fencing off what would have been the protest area

In fact, the Port decision turned the protest into a much more disruptive event than anyone had intended – instead of a short-term tent city on a wide-open space that would have inconvenienced nobody, the idiots at the Port (and I say that with all sincerity, this was really stupid) decided to shut down public space and drive the event out onto the sidewalk in front. The space was crowded; the cops hemmed the protesters in and kept them off the (closed) street (again: why?) so people who just wanted to walk along the Embarcadero were squeezed into the protest.

So many cops, so little threat
So many cops, so little threat

I counted more than 150 cops on the scene, and I would guess at least half of them were on overtime. A lot of money to make sure that a peaceful group of protesters didn’t get too close to the tourists of Super Bowl City.

And nobody intended to go into the tourist trap. The idea was to set up some tents on the ground, to show that there are thousands of homeless people who aren’t getting the benefits of the corporate party and theme park, and that the $5 million that the city is spending to help the NFL make even more money for some of the richest people in the world could have provided housing for a lot of San Franciscans who now live on the streets.

Captain David Lazar tells Jennifer Friendbach of the Coalition on Homelessness that no tents would be allowed
Captain David Lazar tells Jennifer Friendbach of the Coalition on Homelessness that no tents would be allowed

Police Captain David Lazar was in command, and Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, tried to negotiate with him. He was adamant: there would be no entering Port (public) property, and no tents on the ground anywhere. He cited the city ordinance against camping on public property.

Friendebach told him, quite accurately, that the ordinance in question is only enforced sporadically, and that officers have allowed homeless tent cities to spring up all over town – just not anywhere that the rich tourists can see them

But no: Lazar said any tents would be confiscated. And that might lead to arrests.

So on the protest went, as more and more people showed up, and the activists did what they intended to do – they set up tents, with political messages painted on the sides.

No tents on the ground, so the activists had to pick them up
No tents on the ground, so the activists had to pick them up

There was a moment of tension, when Lazar got on the loudspeaker and announced that any tent on the ground would be removed. He had a huge phalanx of cops behind him.

So the activists did the only thing that made sense: The lifted the tents off the ground and held them in their arms. That gave Lazar no choice – he backed off.

And for more than 90 minutes, that’s where it stood, with protesters making speeches, denouncing Mayor Lee, in some cases denouncing the cops, and making it clear that things are just not okay in Super Bowl City.

There were moments of absurdity: At one point, the cops blocked the sidewalk to keep people coming from the south from joining the protest. Seriously: They blocked a public sidewalk to protesters. After a few pointless tense minutes, the officers backed off.

The whole evening was like that. Mass numbers of police in riot gear. I met one man who was some sort of law enforcement officer with a police dog, but he wouldn’t even tell me what agency he was from (homeland security?)

There were Coast Guard officers guarding the Port land – from what?

Former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano at one point addressed the crowd and asked, “What are we, ISIS? How many cops do we need? What am I going to do, hit them with my purse?”

"What am I going to do, hit them with my purse?"
“What am I going to do, hit them with my purse?”

Paul Boden, a longtime advocate for homeless people, said that “we are the best protected fuckers in the world” – there were so many police officers on hand to keep order, but when poor people try to sleep on the streets, they wind up getting citations. “It’s illegal to sit or lie on the streets,” he said. “What the fuck are we supposed to do?”

That’s the question I hope the news media walked away with (and so far, the Chron is making this sound like something that ought to be a funny story, which is really, really, wrong). The city is happy to host an event that caters to the very rich. The mayor has made every effort to keep out of sight anyone who might mar the image of a perfect, clean, San Francisco. For the rest of the week, the city has been turned over to the one percent; it’s a corporate playground, and the rest of us can just shut up and live with it.

But tonight, for a few hours, the rest of us made a statement. I hope the world is listening.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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.

Sponsored link

Top reads

Housing for ‘families’ or corporate rentals?

Planning Commission approves the conversion of units that were supposed to help the housing crisis into very expensive places for short-term use.

Long COVID has reached the ‘Russian Roulette’ stage in the US

As the nation seeks to return to a maskless, congregate 'normal,' the brutal virus is still out there, and repeated infections seem linked to longterm health problems.

Depeche Mode brings San Jose to its feet, then to tears

Memories of keyboardist Andrew Fletcher hung in the air—but hope for group's future did, too.

More by this author

Suddenly, Wiener is a climate champion (and he’s running for Congress)

A strange mailer looks like the kickoff of the Wiener campaign for Pelosi's seat.

Supes hearing misses the point on homelessness

Mandelman seeks radical change in policy away from permanent housing while poverty and neoliberal capitalism take a back seat.

SF has no program in place to prevent SRO evictions from creating homelessness

Hearing shows a gap that puts people who were housed back on the streets.
Sponsored link

You might also likeRELATED