Mayor Ed Lee has just released a statement on last night's police raid of the Occupy San Francisco encampment – claiming to basically support the movement but also support the harsh police crackdown and seizure of tents, food, and other personal property – that offers a sharp contrast to the position of his mayoral rival, John Avalos, who is condemning the SFPD's actions.
Once again, as Lee also did this week in defending businesses that seize money set aside for employee health care costs, our “consensus and civility” mayor is showing that if you try to stand for everything, you end up standing for nothing. Yet Avalos understands that there are times when one side is simply wrong and that supporting the people means being willing to fight for them.
On both issues, Lee mouthed the meaningless “jobs” defense, claiming that he was trying to help working people by letting their employers raid their health care funds, allowing restaurants to fraudulently jack up their bills, or directing the police to seize their tents and food. That's not just pandering, it's insulting.
I've tried unsuccessfully to get Lee's office to offer more detailed explanations of his positions, but they're so far sticking to prepared statements that are riddled with contradictions. So we're just going to run the full statements by Lee and Avalos and let you decide who makes more sense and best reflects San Francisco values.
“I understand and sympathize with the anxiety and frustration felt by so many in our country caused by a lingering recession and joblessness. That’s why I am doing everything I can to create jobs, get people back to work and make our families stronger here in San Francisco. I support the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement that calls for peacefully assembling to protest and bring national attention to disparity issues in our country.
“In San Francisco, protesters are acting within their First Amendment right to free speech and freedom to assemble. While allowing for peaceful protests, we also must ensure that our streets and sidewalks remain safe and accessible for everyone. I will continue to work closely with our Police Chief to ensure San Francisco responds appropriately to these demonstrations.
“San Francisco is a city that embraces free speech and freedom to assemble like no other city.”
Indeed, no other city among the 60 or so that have followed the Occupy Wall Street example of occupying public spaces has sent police and trucks in to raid encampments in the middle of night, so San Francisco is indeed alone in its treatment of the movement that Lee shamelessly claims to support.
And now Avalos:
“Last night I gathered in solidarity with the protesters Occupying San Francisco. Like many people all over the country, I have been watching this protest gather strength and grow as more and more of us, more of the 99 percent, demand accountability from the corporations and people who are responsible for the destruction of our economy and devastation of our families.
“I came to down to observe the protest last night in response to summons from protesters and a notice from the police accusing their encampment of a number of minor infractions, ranging from open flames on a city street or sidewalk to serving food without a permit. I observed and negotiated with police in good faith to keep the peace and allow the encampment to remain, only to hear of a crackdown shortly after I left.
“This is not the San Francisco that I know. This is not the San Francisco I love. This City has served as a sanctuary for free speech and assembly for generations, and we must protect that legacy. With our unemployment rate nearing 10 percent, we have a responsibility to be a sanctuary for the 99 percent.
"Instead, last night we witnessed that 99 percent being detained, arrested, and intimidated with force.
“My vision is of a true sanctuary city - one that protects our right to free speech and assembly, and one that holds real criminals accountable. This should be a city for the rest of us - for the 99 percent. I stand with Occupy SF.”