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February 5, 2016
Police surrounded a group of people, not letting anyone in. At first, it was peaceful.
Then the yelling started. Everyone turned on their video cameras.
On Feb. 3 at 4:30 p.m. in San Francisco, near Super Bowl City, people protested San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s treatment of the homeless.
In order to make room for anticipated crowds and tourists on Super Bowl Sunday, mayor Ed Lee told the homeless living on Embarcadero that they “would have to leave the street.”
On Wednesday hundreds of people gathered on Pier 2 to protest mayor Ed Lee’s treatment of the homeless during the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
The host of the event, who goes by the name Broke-Ass Stuart, above all, wanted the public to leave with an understanding that “it’s wrong to hide our ‘problems’ for the sake of a billion dollar sports league’s party.”
The protesters demanded an end to the criminalization of poverty. Their requests, according to the “Super Bowl Protest: Tackle Homelessness” Facebook page, were for “use of publicly-owned assets, such as the empty Pier 29 or 80, or the land under the Freeway at 101/Cesar Chavez, and [for the creation of] monitored programs that support secure sleep, hygienic toileting, and access to transition/healing services.”
The “Tackle Homelessness” movement attracted protesters from all walks of life. People came from work, still in their suits and ties. Some brought their kids and hoisted them on their shoulders.
San Francisco spent nearly $5 million of taxpayer dollars on the Super Bowl, even though the football game will be in Santa Clara.
“Tackle Homelessness” demanded that Super Bowl City and Ed Lee invest $5 million in housing immediately. They claimed that they could house 500 people with that money.
In the months leading up to the Super Bowl, many homeless were given citations for offenses such as “blocking the sidewalk.” If they couldn’t pay their tickets, homeless people would be knocked off the housing wait list and wouldn’t be able to get back on.
Last August, the Department of Justice filed a statement saying, “Making it a crime for people who are homeless to sleep in public places, when there is insufficient shelter space in a city, unconstitutionally punishes them for being homeless.” Law enforcement seemed to disregard that statement when they forcibly removed homeless people from their camps to make way for the Super Bowl.
San Francisco is ranked number seven in the National Coalition for the Homeless’ “Top Ten Meanest Cities.” This ranking is based on the “number of anti-homeless laws in a city has, the enforcement of those laws and severity of penalties related to them, as well as the general political climate toward homeless people, local advocate support for Meanest City designation, history of homeless criminalization measures, and the existence of pending or recently enacted criminalization legislation.”
Homelessness remains an issue in San Francisco, and the events of last Wednesday signal the growing unrest in the homeless community.