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If any questions remain today as to how the law enforcement establishment views antiwar activists in the post–Sept. 11 world, just follow the money for answers.
The San Francisco Police Department was paid $3.3 million from the US Department of Homeland Security to cover overtime costs for officers who patrolled the major antiwar demonstrations of early 2003.
After months of haggling, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security finally turned key records over to the Guardian. They showed that the money came from a federal "critical infrastructure protection" grant and covered police overtime costs that were incurred by the city between March 2003 and October 2004.
The overtime payments concentrated mostly on more than two weeks’ worth of large protests that occurred in San Francisco around the outset of the war in Iraq. On March 23, 2003 — the first full day after the war began, when the city was nearly shut down by the demonstrations and there were nearly 2,000 arrests — the overtime costs covered by terror money alone reached nearly $800,000.
Other days’ payment ranged from $5,000 to as much as $500,000. Most of the Police Department records included in one file the Guardian obtained describe the events as "anti-war demonstrations," but one protest is identified as an "alternative bicycle event," while another is listed as a "Global Exchange Protest of Fox News."
To obtain the federal antiterror funding, local governments must first spend their own money and follow up with a request for reimbursement from the feds. While the critical infrastructure protection grant exclusively covers overtime expenses, the records we obtained happen to show the full amounts motorcycle patrol officers earned to work the protests: sometimes up to $80 an hour.
San Francisco already pays out millions of dollars annually for overtime expenses from the city's General Fund to cover chronic staff shortages at the Police Department. The San Francisco Office of the Controller predicted in March that overtime expenditures generated by the department would climb to around $20 million by the end of fiscal year 2005, $7 million more than the year before.
During the spring budget process, police officials asked the city for $12.5 million to send 250 new wannabe cops through academy classes. But the department hopes to hire 350 to 400 more sworn and nonsworn employees over the next three years. Mayor Gavin Newsom made new police recruitments a top priority in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2006–07.
In 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that then-mayor Willie Brown intended to cover some of the costs of the city's widely publicized antiwar protests through federal terror funds. An agreement for the total award between San Francisco and the state, which administers the federal funds, was signed in August 2003 by former budget director Ben Rosenfield, who worked for the both Brown and Mayor Newsom. Spokespeople for Newsom and the Police Department did not answer our inquiries in time.
At the time of the protests, Brown seemed to really stretch in his attempt to link them to a terrorism threat. According to the Chronicle, Brown said, "Terrorists could use the demonstrations as a 'cover' to get near the bridges or targeted buildings in the Financial District or Civic Center area." (G.W. Schulz)