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News + PoliticsTech baron who said supes should 'die slow' wants to disrupt Peskin...

Tech baron who said supes should ‘die slow’ wants to disrupt Peskin campaign event

Chinatown leaders say violence and intimidation is not acceptable, particularly in the heart of a vulnerable community.

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To the surprise of nobody, Sup. Aaron Peskin has announced that he’s running for mayor, and his campaign kickoff will be Saturday at Portsmouth Square at 11am.

The initial media coverage was pretty bad, with The Standard running pretty much verbatim all of the attacks from other candidates and from the Yimbys.

Garry Tan’s tweets lead to death threats against Peskin. It’s no surprise that Chinatown leaders are worried about his ‘counter-rally.’

But the Chron’s later story and one in MissionLocal were pretty fair and balanced. Even Heather Knight did a decent piece in The NYTimes.

Now that the news is out, Garry Tan, who tweeted recently that Peskin and other supes should “die slow,” is helping organize a counter-rally that aims to disrupt Peskin’s kickoff—and longtime Chinatown activists are not happy. Tan has blocked me on Twitter, but I got his tweet anyway:

“It’s a public place, people can gather in a park, but to try to disrupt this rally is terrible,” Gordon Chin, founder of the Chinatown Community Development Center and a legendary leader in the Asian community, told me. He mentioned Tan’s tweets, and said, “Inciting violence is uncalled for. It’s Trump-like. We shouldn’t stand for it.”

Nobody is arguing that Tan has threatened any violent actions at the counter-rally. But as Peskin told me, Donald Trump didn’t physically attack any Asian seniors—but his comments during the COVID pandemic legitimized and encouraged those attacks.

“For a community that has been the subject of harsh hate crimes, just putting people on edge like this is disrespectful,” Peskin said. “It’s profoundly disrespectful for a guy who just moved into town.”

Chin said he had never met Tan. “He has not paid his dues, he has no connection to Chinatown, and he thinks he can do this because he’s very rich.”

The Rose Pak Democratic Club, which is helping organize the Peskin event, issued a press release stating that

We are troubled to learn that Mr. Garry Tan, who has little to no ties to our community, plans to oppose our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and publicly express our views. RPDC denounces his coordinated attempt to threaten and silence young activists standing alongside Chinatown seniors.

From club President Jeremy Lee:

Unchecked bad behavior only begets more bad behavior, and Garry Tan has been allowed to act with impunity for too long. In an age of social media, where calls for disruption are eagerly picked up and amplified, it is imperative that Garry’s supporters reject violence in our political system. His hateful attacks must be kept away from our community. His wealth and influence cannot be allowed to provide cover for his dangerous rhetoric. Chinatown elders already live in fear of violence, and Garry’s presence only makes those fears more likely to become a reality. We urge the authorities to ensure we can continue to gather safely, peacefully, and lawfully in our own living room, without fear of violence from zealots like Garry Tan and his followers at Grow SF.

Again: Nobody organizing the counter-rally has made any violent threats. But this town has a history of political violence, and Tan’s tweets did lead to death threats delivered to the homes of several supervisors.

And some of his allies have shouted down people of color, including Chinese seniors, at these types of counter-rallies in the past:

One 77-year-old member of a group of Chinese community members was so disturbed by the YIMBY shouting that she later fainted and was ferried by ambulance to Chinese Hospital.

“Our members were intimidated by YIMBY. They felt threatened,” said Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Chinatown-based Community Tenants Association, who spoke at the rally.

He said he has never encountered a counter-rally so vitriolic in his 10 years of organizing. Sometimes, counter-rallies are held across the street from an event, or an hour later, but not directly in the faces of community members trying to speak their truth.

We all know this race is going to get ugly. I expect to see millions of dollars, maybe tens of millions, spent attacking Peskin. The tech barons may talk about housing (and seriously, Peskin has been a leading voice for affordable housing in this city for decades), but what really has them going is his efforts to regulate tech.

Peskin sided with tenant groups seeking to limit conversions of apartments into Airbnbs. (That’s a pro-housing stance, by the way). He stood with cab drivers against Uber and Lyft when they were illegally operating in the city, and later with Uber and Lyft drivers demanding fair wages and treatment.  He supports regulations on robotaxis.

That, I think, is their big fear.

So fine: Let’s have the discussion on the issues. But some of Peskin’s strongest supporters, who will be at the Saturday rally, are Chinese seniors, and I think the tech bros and their crew—these are the powerful people in the city—could wind up intimidating vulnerable people.

They’ve done it before.

“I guess we have to count on safety in numbers,” Chin said.

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
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.

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