Sit, lie, stand and fight

Officer Larry Bertrand, right, being sworn in to the SF Police Officers Association Board of Directors.

A version of the following op-ed by Ben Rosenfeld ran in this week's Guardian, edited for space reasons, and it's generating quite a lively discussion here. He has asked us to post this extended dance mix of his piece, which offers more political context and gets into some of the issues raised in this weeks' cover story, which is also generating heated debate. So here it is:

            This is a call out to creative, fun-loving San Franciscans: The mayor, the police chief, and their downtown cronies have declared war on our grassroots arts culture, and they are coming for your actual and conceptual space next. All that stands between the town you love and their vision of San Francisco as one big mercantile zone is a single vote progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors. But come November, they see the chance to take that away. The future they promise is already manifest in their many recent attacks on public and private gatherings, and their efforts to wrest the commons from the commoners.

            On Halloween 2009, the San Francisco Police, under their new chief, Los Angeles transplant George Gascón, shut down the Take Back Halloween Flashdance in front of the Ferry Building before DJ Amandeep “Deep” Jawa even arrived. Then they shut down several smaller street parties. (SFBG, 11/2/09) Their official reason—that organizers lacked permits—is what Bill Clinton famously termed an explanation, but not an excuse. The SFPD has a long history not only of tolerating unpermitted gatherings, but of re-routing traffic around and even escorting them. They are fully empowered to grant the equivalent of on-the-fly permits, a concept recognized in federal parks regulations. Applying for an actual permit is cumbersome, costly, anti-spontaneous, and reinforces the government’s view of itself as censor.

            Since Halloween, Chief Gascón’s force has been striking a mighty blow against crime by writing scores of open container citations to revelers in Dolores Park; fining or forcing the closure of SOMA clubs and bars for failing to conform to every fickle letter of the law; and sending undercover officers into warehouse and studio parties to bust them from within, sometimes violently, and without warrants. Their alpha party-crasher is a twitchy undercover cop named Larry Bertrand. He reportedly makes a habit of gratuitously attacking partygoers and vandalizing property, especially DJ equipment. One DJ wrote on a confidential email list: “I have been telling every DJ I know to run with their gear when your party gets busted [by Bertrand].” Not only has the chief failed to rein in Bertrand, but he wants to put a Taser in his hand, and in the hands of a rotten core of approximately 100 other officers whom the Chron found in 2006 are responsible for most citizen complaints, but whom the Department and this chief have systematically failed to discipline.

            Perhaps the most un-San Franciscan of all of Gascón’s initiatives is his demand for an anti-sit/lie ordinance, which would literally criminalize the very act of sitting or lying on certain public sidewalks at certain times. Never mind the fact that most violent crime is committed by people standing up and in striking range. Gascón appears to share the mayor’s philosophy that homelessness is just an aesthetic problem the rest of us should hose off our sidewalks. Not only is the idea just plain mean, it is anathema to San Francisco’s culture of compassion and broadmindedness, and its affirmative celebration of vibrant street culture. The danger is not that the police will arrest everyone who dares to take a load off or sit and sip a Snapple against the side of a building, but that they will enforce the law selectively according to their own purity tests, while robbing the rest of us of a diverse street scene that makes us all richer.

            To be sure, essential San Francisco has reasserted itself in the teeth of earlier culture wars, if in ever wealthier iterations. When Willie Brown stood in front of Critical Mass in 1997 and declared it illegal, riders blew by him like he was a grand prix flagman, and ridership surged from one or two thousand to five to seven thousand. What’s different this time are the demographics. San Francisco is richer than ever before, even at the height of the boom. Rents are through the roof. Everywhere, industrial warehouses and studios are drying up and concept industrial restaurants and bars are sprouting up. A new wave of young, hip residents has arrived seeking Dionysus, but they want no part of the political machinations under his robe. They are liberal, but they are not active. At least not yet. The mayor, the chief, and the norm core they serve are counting on our collective non-engagement. If we don’t band together—hipsters, activists, artists, and fun-loving folk all—we will watch the San Francisco we cherish slip away.

            On March 27, reclaim public space. Sit and lie on the public sidewalk. March and sing in the public street. Picnic on the pavement. Pop open a beer in Dolores Park. Do it without a permit. The Constitution is your permit. San Francisco’s heritage of artistic experimentation is your permit. Hell, the people telling you to get a permit flocked here because people like you marched around them in the first place and made this City a model of art and innovation for the world. Do it for them too. This is a defining moment. They are playing for keeps and so must we. Let’s bask in San Francisco’s ongoing heyday, not in quaint stories of the good times that used to be.


What this article and the link's comments tell me is that Guardian progressives can tell us how to live our lives for our own good, but they don't have to follow the rules because the Burning Man spirit is everywhere.

I miss the late 80's early 90's in the city, if you didn't bother a cop they wouldn't bother you. The cops I know miss those days too.

With more annoying yuppie NIMBYS and carpetbaggers moving in, what do you expect? All the entitled Aaron Peskin types who move in and whine and complain at every turn are the people who helped created this situation.

It's hilarious that the author thinks that the progressives on the board are pro-freedom and are holding out against some conspiracy of joy killers.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 25, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

"All the entitled Aaron Peskin types who move in"
He was born in Berkeley.
What's your pedigree?
And, more importantly, are you going to cut your own throat because you hate "progressives" so much?
Do you want cops telling you that you can't innocently sit on a public sidewalk?
Let's keep this ridiculously essential freedom first, then let's take back some more.
Let's have some freedom.
What's on your wish list?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

People should be left alone on as many levels as possible.

Progressives pick and choose their way through that view.

If the far right is trying to control womens bodies, the progressive are trying to control everything else in their condescending way.

It's amazingly hypocritical for Guardian authoritarians to complain about the cops cracking down on their burning man good time, while cheering all the other invasive government, so called progressives love.

Progressives feel good about telling you

what to do with your trash
where you can smoke
where and when you can drive... and then try and hound you out of your car
take your tax money and spend it on lawsuits to benefit a well off special interest you may not agree with
try and take guns from law abiding citizens,
raise taxes and fees to give to their pet and their commissions
micro managing business in the city


But don't ever tell a burning man progressive where and when to bong out and have a DJ'd pillow fight.

I'm against the sit lie law because it can and will be used poorly, like the burglary tools charge, but all the authoritarian invasive progressive non sense is good? They are children.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 11:08 am

I agree with you on the ridiculous smoking laws, and the trash sorting laws which have us working as unpaid trash sorters for Golden Gate Disposal or whatever they call themselves now.
The author of another article about the sit/lie law here on the Guardian had this to say about freedom in San Francisco:
"I have consistently taken a stand against laws which I believe are overbroad, and which intrude on anyone's civil liberties. For instance, I also opposed the handgun ban in San Francisco before the Supreme Court indirectly struck it down (by nullifying the D.C. law on which it was based)."
-Ben Rosenfeld in the comments section

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

Whats that guy doing associating with the liberal fascists at the Guardian?

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 27, 2010 @ 5:35 am

Do you want cops telling you that you can't innocently sit on a public sidewalk?

Do you want cops telling you, you can't bully people?

Do you want cops telling you you can't rob people?

Do you want cops telling you, you cant rape women.......lalalalalalala fucking la

Of course not, we are progressive, we know better!!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 25, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

On 03.25.10, you published an article where you interviewed some of the people sitting on the sidewalk on Haight Street. There were 3 comments on that from ubiquitous Arthur Evans who is for sit-lie, and 2 from me exposing Arthur Evans and his regressive agenda. This morning the entire article is gone. Why? It's almost as if Arthur Evans is somehow connected with The Guardian, or you're trying to protect him.

Posted by Sam on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 10:10 am

Your conspiracy views are really getting the better of you.

Likely the case is that the Guardian staff replaced that article with something else, I doubt the Guardian seriously cares what You, Arthur Evans, or I post here. Too think that the comments section anywhere in any newspaper has enough importance that the editors will remove articles based on whats posted is pretty odd.

And you called Artur Evans ubiquitous, after reading dozens of your posts, I wonder... ah never mind.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 10:48 am

The article was from this week's paper -- you can find that and others if you click on "this Week's Paper" on the homepage, or "This Week" in the top nav bar .. 

Posted by marke on Mar. 26, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

To Glen Matlock and all other Libertarians:

If people do not take the responsibility to do things like sorting their trash correctly, then yes, the government needs to tell them how to do it. The natural environment is infinitely more important than your supposed freedom to, for example, throw compost or recyclables into the trash headed for landfills. The Earth, its ecosystems, and its plants and animals are infinitely more important than the desires of selfish, immature humans to move around at unnaturally high speeds while destroying the Earth by doing so. And our right to breathe clean air in public spaces easily trumps your right to smoke.

Libertarians like Glen Matlock are like small children who have no sense of responsibility. They just want to do whatever they please, the rest of the world be damned. Well, sorry Mr. Matlock, but you and your selfish desires have to take a back seat to the needs and desires of the rest of the planet. Grow up and mature to the point where you act responsibly, then the government won't have to regulate you.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Mar. 28, 2010 @ 10:07 am

I'm going to write this in spite of the fact that you sound like a troll who couldn't possibly believe all your own jargon, but just wants to screw with "libertarians" like Glen Matlock.
I assure you I'm not a "libertarian". I'm not a "progressive" either, but people similar to you have cursed me as one.

The Waste Disposal Company in San Francisco is a for profit company.
I think they are called Recology these days, which is a very green sounding name that I'm sure they carefully chose to confuse people like yourself into thinking they give a shit about the planet and the people on it. They don't. They have a long history of polluting, price gouging and generally harming the health of the planet and people like you and me.
The waste disposal company has a vested interest in recycling, and in reclaiming compostable waste. They have been doing this for years now, because it is profitable and they want to make as much money as possible. This is good for them, the planet, and us- you and me.
The waste disposal company made a handsome profit before people began sorting their trash. Now, they just make a larger profit. Has your trash bill gone down since you began sorting it and saving the waste management company all the money they previously had to pay their employees to perform the same task? No. They simply make a greater profit, and you have become an unpaid employee of their company.
It's not that I don't care about the planet. I do. But I do not care about how great a profit the waste management company makes.
It is not an either or proposition in which you either separate your trash or the planet suffers.
It is an either or proposition in which either the waste management company separates the trash and makes a slightly lower profit, or you do it for free.
We could require them to separate the trash for us using a law just like the one that governs individuals which you seem to view quite favorably.
I personally would rather spend my time helping the environment in other ways, such as advocating against General Electric or Citibank or irresponsible logging companies, and leave the business of trash sorting to the company I pay a rather large amount of money to each month. A company which, in San Francisco, enjoys a monopoly on our business. I would not object if they continued to allow people such as yourself to "opt in" as an unpaid employee for their company.

As for the cigarette smoke outdoors, if you can find a single study that proves second hand smoke outside harms other people, please link to it.
I do not believe this has ever been proven, because it is not a threat to anyone whose face is further than about 12 inches from the face of the person smoking.. Indoors makes sense because the smoke is somewhat trapped and concentrated.
Outside, on the other hand, I have noticed that smoke seems to have quite a bit of space in which to dissipate, which common sense should tell you, makes it no longer harmful.
In the long list of things we should be concerned with having an impact on our health, cigarette smoke outdoors falls far towards the bottom. Well after auto exhaust, but I see you are pretty upset about those too.
It is an exciting thing for judgmental folks to get angry about, of course, and a handy indicator of one's supposed moral superiority when in doubt.
And yes, you can call a policeman and complain if that's the sort of person you are.

Your concern that the earth not be destroyed is a valid one, and I share it with you.
Unfortunately, like so many other people in our society, you seem to have given up on the possibility of effecting any kind of meaningful change on the large organizations that are doing the real damage to all of us. And, like other frustrated and angry people in our society, you seem to have made a decision to vent your frustration and anger on those around you. The other small fry.
We can't solve this by attacking each other, although the people and companies that are actually raping and pillaging the planet will be happy if we try.
Tearing each other apart keeps us busy, and leaves no time or energy for stopping them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

What separates you from a born again Christian?

Poor authoritarian Jeff, I have bought expensive LED lights for the house and work, don't own a car and unless I had too for a job wouldn't own one again, I ride a bike everywhere I go, I have recycled my entire life since long before it was fashionable with the authoritarians, and done a host of other wonderful things for mother Gia.

The children are the authoritarian and obsessed new operation rescue types, the do good left and its entitlement to our lives with their laws for our own good, seriously Jeff, what separates your entitlement to my life from that of the average Jerry Fallwell? I want to know?

If you oppose sit lie and are for all the crack pot laws of SF progressives you are a monumental hypocrite.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 28, 2010 @ 11:37 am

It was a beautiful day on Haight Street yesterday.
The sidewalks were crowded with happy tourists from all over the world, as well as San Franciscans. People with children and dogs stepped over colorful chalk drawings on the sidewalk.
The crowds of people enjoying the day had no problem making their way past the many people sitting and lying on the sidewalk, either.
There were tarot card readers, a comedy rap duo, a poet typing poems on demand, street kids, people relaxing, chatting outside bars and enjoying cigarettes. And a lot of musicians. Guitars, harmonicas, singing, keyboards, a cello down by Amoeba Records. The sunshine and the people made for an amazing day.
And it occurred to me how this incredible afternoon on Haight Street.was so different from the ridiculously scary and dark picture painted here in the comments sections of the Guardian and other sites by people like Arthur Evans, and by the irresponsible writers of the chronicle and the examiner. By the hateful and the judgemental, the power hungry and the lickers of the boots of the power hungry.

Everyone on Haight Street yesterday, every day, knows the truth about this place.
This is a beautiful place, and there is no emergency.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2010 @ 11:48 am

Saturday in the park

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 28, 2010 @ 2:03 pm