DSA SF strongly condemns Mayor London Breed’s latest winter police state occupation of the Tenderloin and supports the recent condemnations by Defund SFPD Now, Coalition on Homelessness, and many others. We call on the Board of Supervisors to reject ratification of the mayor’s declaration of a State of Emergency in the Tenderloin at this Thursday’s special hearing. The Tenderloin has been beset by the intersection of multiple crises: poverty, COVID, homelessness, opioids (particularly fentanyl), all of which have resulted in a tremendous amount of suffering, staggering loss of life, and a street situation that is inhumane and untenable for all residents of the Tenderloin, both housed and unhoused. This situation has been exacerbated by the policies of the Breed administration.
Mayor Breed’s newfound outrage regarding drug overdoses in the Tenderloin is nothing more than an opportunistic publicity stunt and a rebranding of failed “tough on crime” policies of yesteryear, which will have devastating consequences for the very people for whom she feigns concern. Mayor Breed’s plan includes diverting funds from other programs and increasing the SFPD’s budget to expand street sweeps to displace unhoused people, increase surveillance and arrests, and target street vendors that don’t have licenses.
Mayor Breed claims that her proposals will “make the Tenderloin a safer, healthier neighborhood,” but this will not improve the health and safety of Tenderloin residents. This is about protecting the interests of the wealthy landlords and developers who reap profits from the ongoing income inequality and racial disparities in San Francisco. More recently, she has revealed her true motives by prioritizing protecting property at Union Square over those who have been harmed by the police and other entities.
The Breed administration refused to house people in shelter-in-place (SIP) hotels at the beginning of the pandemic. After pressure from the Board of Supervisors and the community, Mayor Breed begrudgingly implemented the federally funded SIP hotel program on a much smaller scale than was mandated by the Board of Supervisors and necessary for public health.
Mayor Breed also fought furiously to close down the SIP hotels, which are the bare minimum to keep people safe during the pandemic instead of living on the streets. Her own city departments are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars in allocated (but unspent) homelessness response funds which has stalled the very programs the mayor claims will be part of her plan, including behavioral health services, Compassionate Alternative Response Team (CART), and more.
The mayor and the press have cited “red tape” as a justification for needing a declaration of emergency. However, it is simply false to contend that red tape has prevented the mayor’s own departments from implementing any of the stalled programs she now claims to want to implement. Rather, the state of emergency is a political maneuver to give the mayor free rein to reallocate public money and to subvert the oversight of the Board – and therefore the people. This is a move to send more money to cops and to questionable nonprofit entities like Urban Alchemy.
Forcibly cleaning the streets and putting people into jail does not create safer streets or healthier people — it simply punishes people for circumstances that are the direct result of capitalist alienation and oppression. It’s an unjustifiable policy that is not only dehumanizing but also harmful to people on the streets and folks who use drugs that are not sanctioned by the capitalist class. These tired “War on Drugs” tactics also harm efforts to destigmatize drug use and, in turn, save lives. Thus, the recent public health emergency manifest in drug addiction cannot be solved by the police. The focus on using cops to enforce sit-lie, sleeping, and camping laws as the mayor has announced she intends to, is not only illegal but cruel and inhumane. The policies of this city keep people out of housing by enforcing laws that protect private property. The simple truth is the people Mayor Breed is targeting with anti-sleeping laws have no place to go. Of course, she doesn’t care where people go so long as they are out of sight.
If Mayor Breed actually cared about the health and safety of the Tenderloin, she could have spent the already allocated funds to invest in behavioral health and harm reduction services that can become lifelines for many. She could have invested in the Tenderloin rather than increase the SFPD budget. Instead, she’d much rather continue to criminalize and demonize the poor, the unhoused, and immigrants simply trying to survive in this city. We believe that the people in the Tenderloin deserve to be housed, have better economic opportunities, community-based programs including responding to mental health crises without the police, and other solutions that will move us towards harm reduction and addressing the root causes. We will invest our time, money, and energy into our own programs like Hotels Not Hospitals, brake light replacement clinics, and mutual aid actions to distribute PPE and supplies to unhoused people.
While the mayor has unsurprisingly blocked many proposals that would’ve provided safer environments and resources for those that are affected, we will continue to fight until the marginalized in this city are no longer hurt by these policies.
We urge Mayor Breed to use the power and funds already at her disposal to meet people’s needs rather than grandstanding and overpolicing at the expense of the most vulnerable folks in the Tenderloin. We further call on the Board of Supervisors to stand up to Mayor Breed and protect the people of the Tenderloin by rejecting this politically-motivated declaration of a state of emergency. This is not a time for silence or rubber stamping. Mayor Breed has laid out her detailed plan to criminalize the Tenderloin community. It’s time for you to step in.