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Lennar’s hired gun

April 2, 2010

Join the rally and hearing on the resolution calling on Lennar to apologize Monday, April 12, 9:30 a.m., SF City Hall steps – See POWER’s call to action following the story

by Carol Harvey

On March 31, the San Francisco Police Commission, meeting at a church on the outskirts of Bayview Hunters Point, heard appeals for fairness and justice from the community. If a Black man at that meeting had been carrying a concealed, loaded gun without a permit, would they have laughed it off? – Photo: Carol Harvey
All seven San Francisco Police Commissioners left their City Hall chambers and traveled to the outskirts of Bayview Hunters Point on Wednesday, March 31. This visitation was at the adamant behest of SLAM (Stop Lennar Action Movement), blast email announced an en masse community mobilization to appear before “those who are responsible for police oversight and hold the department accountable for its actions or lack thereof.”

In the tightly-packed sanctuary of the Grace Lutheran Church at 465 Woolsey St. at 6 p.m., a forceful and articulate community – 150 to 200 strong – answered this call to attend a public airing of “problems, concerns and un-addressed issues that have impacted Bayview Hunters Point and the community.”

After opening remarks, San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon observed quietly while Bayview Station Capt. Greg Suhr polished to a high shine an overview of Bayview Hunters Point policing.

But public comment speakers pressed “public protection” unanimously. People wanted answers, “results.” “We want to do justice,” said Leon Mohammed, “and we want to do right.”

Several speakers expressed outrage at an incident on Thursday, Feb. 18, at the 5048 Third St. Center for Self Improvement and Community Development and Nation of Islam mosque. Mothers worried about their children’s health and other members of the community had packed the hall that night to hear internationally renowned Louisiana-based scientist Wilma Subra of Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC), who had been brought to San Francisco by the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA had sponsored and funded the well-advertised meeting, which had been organized by SLAM. Subra’s power point presentation, available in advance on line, detailed serious deficiencies in the Redevelopment Agency/Lennar Draft Environmental Impact Report and plan for “early transfer” of an unremediated, partially cleaned and highly toxic Superfund site, the Hunters Point Shipyard.

During Subra’s presentation, Brother Mark, mosque security, spotted a middle-aged white man taping with a hidden recorder and carrying what turned out to be an unpermitted, loaded fire arm. In the course of questioning, the man gave an assumed name and a false address and phone number. He was later identified as a former Ingleside District police officer, now an operative of a security firm hired by Lennar, the huge homebuilder chosen by the City to develop the Shipyard.

Bayview officers were called. They took away the man, but did not charge him. Marie Harrison testified that police did not interview anyone who had attended the meeting except SFPD officers.

As the Bayview fights for environmental justice using every mechanism at its disposal to save its community and its children from lung-choking dust, heavy metals and radioactive material, the Redevelopment Agency, Lennar and the mayor seem bent on pushing through this bankrupt and dangerous project by any means possible. The Chronicle and Examiner for years have spun like tops promoting the program. Writers from both daily papers have shown remarkable arrogance and condescension toward the Bayview on this issue as they dutifully underwrite this political agenda, minimizing its importance, twisting its facts, expanding partialized truths into exaggerations.

On Jan. 5, 2010, only a week before Jan. 12 deadline for written community comments on the Redevelopment/Lennar 4,400 page Draft Environmental Impact Report, Chronicle staff writer John Cote penned “EPA report: Shipyard project minimizing dust.” In print, the story had been featured at the top of the paper’s front page under the headline, “Shipyard project curbing dust, says EPA draft.”

Cote claimed that “a draft” of a federal report obtained by the Chronicle found the project has effective safeguards to minimize asbestos dust exposure. He suggested this “draft” was leaked to the paper by the EPA. Trumpeted Cote, “The EPA also saw ‘no reason to suspend or stop the construction project,’ which calls for 10,500 homes to be built over two decades in an ambitious effort to transform the city’s southeastern waterfront.”

According to sources, incoming regional EPA head Jared Blumenthal knew nothing about any leak, and no one in the EPA had authorized one. Speculation was that Cote was referring, in some distortion of understanding, to the Redevelopment/Lennar “draft” EIR. Finally, it was determined that the exciting new “draft” to which Cote referred was, in fact, a dust mitigation study done years before in which Lennar provided the EPA dust mitigation data and information only for their review, asking them to evaluate it.

Lennar had stopped the EPA from doing their own testing and evaluation. The former EPA director told the community, “We didn’t do a study. We analyzed the data that was given to us.” In addition, no scientific peer review was carried out on this “study.”

After months of meetings and a 4,400-page Redevelopment Draft EIR covering the dangerous Bayview cleanup of a highly toxic Superfund site, John Cote’s attempt to boil down environmental issues to one dust mitigation study alone is a vast oversimplification of a multi-faceted environmental problem.

Chronicle columnists Matier and Ross play off John Cote’s article, referring to the flawed, incomplete and superficial dust mitigation EPA “draft” report. “For just as long, the local Nation of Islam has objected to the project, maintaining that bulldozers have stirred up unhealthy amounts of asbestos – something both Lennar and city health tests debunk,” while respiratory diseases soar in Bayview Hunters Point, especially among children.

Cote’s piece quotes Michael Cohen, head of the mayor’s economic development office, stating, “After more than three years, Minister Christopher Muhammad has still failed to generate a single shred of reputable scientific evidence that the construction on phase one of Hunters Point Shipyard was harmful to the surrounding community.”

Continued Cohen, “The fact that Barack Obama’s EPA has joined the long list of federal, state and local agencies that agree there is no reason to stop this project is important because of the Obama administration’s strong commitment to environmental justice.”

Cote neglected to mention that, on Jan. 5, 2010, Jared Blumenthal, regional EPA director under the Obama administration, had not yet taken office. Bush administration officials still controlled the agency and the pre-Obama structure stood intact.

Additionally, the EPA demonstrated its concern for safety problems in Shipyard Superfund site development by the funding and sponsorship of Wilma Subra’s condemning expose.

So desperate is Redevelopment/Lennar to see this project go through that Lennar sent an undercover operative into an EPA-sponsored meeting at the mosque with a loaded, unpermitted gun and a tape recorder, ostensibly to spy. When Nation of Islam security discovered the man and called police, a Sunday, Feb. 28, Matier and Ross column slanted and twisted the resulting debacle.

They casually flipped victim into perpetrator, quoting district attorney spokesman Brian Buckelew: “We could charge them [The Nation] with misdemeanor false imprisonment, but the fact that he was carrying a gun would make it a difficult case to take to a jury.”

“Nation of Islam representatives could not be reached for comment,” the columnists added. That’s not surprising considering how often the movement and especially the Nation as part of the movement has been skewered by the press.

Ken Garcia’s racist March 23 hit piece in the Examiner, “Setting it straight: Guard talks about meeting fiasco,” quotes Lennar spokesman Glenn Bunting confessing, “Executives did not feel comfortable sending a regular employee to the meeting [scary Black people?], so they called upon their security firm, which sent the ex-cop.”

This reporter attended that meeting – a peaceful, informative meeting – where I was treated with the utmost kindness by the Nation’s ultra-polite members, including soft-spoken Leon Muhammad, who greeted me at the door. When I left, I noticed a group of four figures quietly conversing down the block. Some cop cars were parked next to a couple of people and police. Two weeks later, I learned these were the arresting officers and the Lennar plant.

Yet Ken Garcia, who was not present at the meeting, quoted Lennar’s operative complaining, “‘At one point, there were nearly a dozen people surrounding me, and one of the guys kept saying, “Let’s cap [shoot] this motherf—er,”‘ said the guard, who asked that his name not be used for fear of retaliation. ‘At one point, they all started moving in on me and I thought I was going to die. It was going bad really quick.’”

Leon Muhammad told the Police Commission, “The man came in there with a loaded gun, a fictitious name … and then when we had called police officers, what we saw was that you all were chuckling, laughing and giggling with this man. So we want to know if there’s nepotism and cronyism that’s ruining Bayview in the Police Department.”

Wrote Garcia, “It was only after he was handcuffed that he informed the group that he had a concealed weapon [Marie reported several people saw the gun during the meeting], which he is fully licensed to carry.”

At the end of the Police Commission meeting, Capt. Suhr was asked, “Where is the man now?” He answered only, “It’s a misdemeanor, so, even if he was in custody, he would be …” Someone cut him off, “Misdemeanor with a gun in a church and a school!?” Answered Suhr, “Possession of a firearm without a felony conviction by anybody is a misdemeanor.” Others questioned why, when a misdemeanor is an arrestable offense, the man was not arrested, and, further, why possessing a loaded, concealed weapon in a public meeting is a mere misdemeanor, not a felony carrying a heavier penalty.

Marie Harrison speculated that they “cited him out with a promise to return to court if he is charged.” Suhr stated that they immediately passed their report along to the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether will to file charges against the man. Is the Matier and Ross headline correct, “Black Muslims’ scuffle with ex-cop apt to fade?” Word is, the DA is “looking into it.” After the hoopla dies down, will this case conveniently disappear into the district attorney’s great swirling hole of forgotten atrocities?

It is not known whether the man was fined, but he did not receive the misdemeanor penalty of jail time under one year. As Leon Muhammad observed, “To this day there’s a man walking around – we don’t really know his real name – with a permit that’s expired, with a license to kill.”

People in Bayview Hunters Point are asking, “What if a Black man had attended a large, federal agency sponsored meeting at a major church or synagogue in an upscale white San Francisco neighborhood packing a loaded gun. Would the police and DA have brushed that complaint off with a giggle?”

Notwithstanding Matier and Ross, the incident is not yet about to fade away. Supervisor Chris Daly is sponsoring a resolution requesting an apology that is scheduled to be taken up on Monday, April 12, a hearing the community is encouraged to attend. The resolution asks Lennar to “issue a formal, written apology” to SLAM because “the act by the Lennar Corporation of sending one of its representatives into a peaceful, non-violent community meeting with a loaded firearm sends a message to the community members of Bayview Hunters Point that is contrary to the values of the City and County of San Francisco, which upholds the right to organize and assemble peacefully.”

A 9:30 a.m. rally on the steps of City Hall will precede the hearing. While the press and top officials at City Hall continue to belittle Bayview Hunters Point’s concerns about the health impacts of developing the Shipyard before it’s clean, the community is expected to turn out in the hundreds as they have time after time in the four years since Lennar started kicking up dust at the Hunters Point Shipyard.

Carol Harvey is a San Francisco writer whose work is published by many Bay Area periodicals. Email her at carolharveysf@yahoo.com.

Call to action

Monday, April 12, 9:30 a.m. – noon, San Francisco City Hall, join POWER, SLAM and the Bayview community for a press conference and Supervisors hearing condemning Lennar for intimidation for sending an armed operative into a peaceful community meeting!

WHY SHOULD LENNAR HAVE A DIFFERENT SET OF RULES?

JOIN US TO LET THEM KNOW:

IF YOU WANT TO DO BUSINESS IN THIS CITY, YOU MUST ABIDE BY THE RULES.

RULE #1: NO GUNS ALLOWED.

RULE #2: USING RACISM AND HATRED IS OUTDATED.

On Feb. 18, Lennar sent an armed operative to a town hall meeting hosted by the Stop Lennar Action Movement (SLAM), featuring Wilma Subra, a world renowned scientist who was brought to San Francisco by the Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of the meeting was for Dr. Subra to address the upcoming Environmental Impact Report for the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

The person in question carried a loaded firearm into an informational community meeting, packed with more than 200 children, teachers, community members, candidates for District 10 Supervisor, representatives of the EPA, families, and activists from across San Francisco. A former police officer, the man had NO permit to carry the weapon, signed in under a false name, was taking pictures of the crowd and refused to provide correct information.

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. No matter what your position, EVERYONE should be allowed to organize without fear of intimidation. In a community inundated by gun violence, Lennar’s actions were inexcusable.

What’s worse is that Lennar has used local media outlets not to APOLOGIZE, but to try and justify their actions. Using racism and hatred, Lennar is saying that the white officer was afraid. What exactly was he afraid of? Articles containing the fear driven words “Black Muslims” are attempting to spin the story away from Lennar’s irresponsible actions.

WILL YOU STAND WITH POWER AND THE COMMUNITY OF BAYVIEW HUNTERS POINT TO DEMAND THAT THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS REQUIRE LENNAR TO PLAY BY THE RULES?

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP:

1. Endorse the resolution (below) being considered at the Board of Supervisors, condemning Lennar’s actions;

2. Represent at the hearing coming up on April 12;

3. Join power for some guerrilla theater before the hearing at 9:30 a.m.!

For more information, please call Jaron at POWER: (415) 864-8372, ext. 303.

in solidarity,

POWERistas and the Bayview Hunters Point community

Resolution for your endorsement

To endorse, email your name and the name of your organization, if applicable, to Leon Muhammad, leonmuhammad@gmail.com, and Jaron Browne, jb@unite-to-fight.org.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, indicate our endorsement of the following petition to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and urge the Board to adopt the resolution outlined below. We join with the Stop Lennar Action Movement (SLAM) in calling on the Board to urge the Lennar Corporation to issue a formal, written apology to the members of the Stop Lennar Action Movement (SLAM) and the City and County of San Francisco for irresponsible and potentially dangerous behavior.

WHEREAS, the Lennar Corporation is a contracted entity with the City and County of San Francisco; and

WHEREAS, on February 18, 2010, the Stop Lennar Action Movement (SLAM) convened a peaceful, non-violent community meeting at the Center for Self Improvement in Bayview Hunters Point where the Lennar Corporation sent a member of its private security to attend the community meeting; and

WHEREAS, the informational meeting was intended to provide impartial information from a world renowned scientist on the potential impacts of one of the largest development projects in San Francisco’s history; and

WHEREAS, Wilma Subra, an internationally renowned environmental scientist, a recipient of the 1999 MacArthur Fellowship Award, and a member of more than 30 EPA and environmental committees since 1989, was brought to San Francisco by the Environmental Protection Agency District 9, and met with members of the Board of Supervisors earlier that day; and

WHEREAS, a member of Lennar’s private security brought a loaded firearm into a peaceful, multi-racial, intergenerational assembly of community members including more than 200 community activists, San Francisco Unified School District principals and teachers, Board members from the Community Colleges of San Francisco, clergypersons from all denominations throughout San Francisco, federal government employees, representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency District 9, environmentalists, children, mothers, and elderly persons, placing them in great danger; and

WHEREAS, the City and County of San Francisco does not condone violence of any sort, in particular gun violence; and

WHEREAS, the act by the Lennar Corporation of sending one of its representatives into a peaceful, non-violent community meeting with a loaded firearm sends a message to the community members of Bayview Hunters Point that is contrary to the values of the City and County of San Francisco, which upholds the right to organize and assemble peacefully; and

WHEREAS, the act of bringing a loaded firearm into a peaceful, non-violent meeting threatened the safety of a peaceful, multi-racial, intergenerational assembly of more than 200 community members; and

WHEREAS, the possession of a loaded firearm requires the carrier to possess and carry on their person the required permits; and

WHEREAS, the person in question sent by the Lennar Corporation did not make visible to the general public said permits, which are required by law; and

WHEREAS, the Lennar Corporation has used its public relations machine to condone their unconscionable actions in local news outlets, which sends a message to San Franciscans that Lennar believes itself to be exempt from its responsibility to positively represent its relationship to the City and County of San Francisco; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors calls upon the Lennar Corporation to issue a formal, written apology to members of the Stop Lennar Action Movement (SLAM) and the City and County of San Francisco for irresponsible and potentially dangerous behavior.

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