by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, Poor News Network
“You can’t come in,” the oddly butler-esque dressed sheriff stopped me, my 12-year-old son Tiburcio and literally hundreds of members of the public at the door to King Lee’s (not at all) “public” inauguration.
protesters scattered all around the rotunda
“We were told it was open to the public,” I countered.
“It is.” A weird silence ensued and he looked above us.
“So if it’s public, we are the public and we would like to go in,” I continued.
“You can’t.” Again, a long, weird silence ensued.
We stood there one-sidedly arguing with him for another few minutes and then me and Tibu decided to “find an alternate route” to get in. We proceeded on a hectic journey to penetrate the insane level of FBI, SWAT, Sheriff Department and private security crawling around the so-called public event.
We went up the elevator and down the stairs. We tried unsuccessfully to claim media access, but our plastic official Poor News Network badge was a little too torn up to garner us legitimacy. We trailed along with the Boys Choir and got stopped as soon as they actually looked at us, our slightly soiled revolutionary black attire giving us away.
We hid in the bathroom, thinking we were pulling a James Bond move and would eventually fling the door open and do a body roll out. Dopey us came out and the same police were still there; this time they had increased to double-fold and were staring right at us.
Finally, we ended up in the press box upstairs, standing nonchalantly next to sis-STAR comrade Pearl Ubungen – who eventually got dragged out. We managed to stay quiet until London Breed began to introduce the mini-king and his fiefdom.
“Fire Chief Suhr, Fire Ed Lie” came rolling out of my mouth uncontrollably and with the words came the sign that oddly appeared under my sweatshirt: “If we don’t fire Chief Suhr and recall Ed Lee, he will shoot and evict us all – #Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, Amilcar Lopez, Idriss Stelley, Kenneth Harding, Ron Likkers and Elaine Turner …”
It was at this moment that a female sheriff appeared from behind the curtain and pulled me away from the area while grabbing my sign and tearing it up violently like I was insulting her personally. Me and Tibu had a plan: If I did get pushed out, he would step away and follow slightly behind.
She led us to the place that the SWAT team and police had designated for all us troublemakers, aka the very angry, evicted, lied to, displaced, houseless, police-terrorized San Franciscans that Ed Lee was supposedly elected by.
From that moment on it was a scene out of some old Russian spy novel. Anybody who dared to raise their voice, drop a banner or boo loudly was at risk of being seized and dragged out. One by one a team of three sheriffs would march in, burrow through the crowd to “find” the perpetrator and drag him or her out, plastic arrest ties dangling off their gun belts.
At the same time, at least 75 suited and booted SWAT team members with batons raised and helmet glass down gathered at either exit to escort us out of the little segregated space we had been corralled into. It was actually terrifying for a poverty skola, formerly incarcerated mama like me who can’t get arrested.
And yet it was so infuriating that any hardcore truth-teller like me and the other hundreds of community folks next to me couldn’t leave. As a matter of fact, there was a mini-conflict between some of us who wanted to lock arms and begin chanting together at the top of our lungs knowing that these paid gangsters might be able to arrest one or two of us but they couldn’t arrest all of us together. But people seemed visibly and understandably intimidated and so outbursts remained singular until the end.
Meanwhile, the weird feudal fiefdom was unfolding downstairs – from the Boys Choir to the Catholic priest, from the poltricksters Breed and Gov. Gerrification Fracking Brown to the weird love from Lee’s well-dressed minions in rapt attendance. In the midst of constant boos, shouts to fire Chief Suhr and Ed Lee and get justice for Mario Woods, Alex Nieto and so many more coming from both second floor sides of the rotunda filled with angry community folks, there was clapping and honoring and well-wishing.
It was nothing less than surreal and so reminiscent of the (s)election of this mayor who has ruled with greed as his first goal, selling off every part of this town to the gentryTECH nation and in the process displacing and killing families, elders and young people of color.
The violent paper pusher
People claim Ed Lee is only a paper pusher – a bureaucrat. But don’t get it twisted; paper and pens in the wrong hands can kill people and have led to the death of thousands of poor people, disabled people, Black and Brown and indigenous people from the lie of discovery to chattel slavery to our present day anti-poor people laws of the 21st century.
Other than the very rich, this mayor isn’t working for anyone. It is why we Black, Brown, disabled and poor people at POOR Magazine visited his house the day before for an action we called “Suhr & Lee: Stop Killing San Francisco and Its Black, Brown, Disabled & Poor People! Mayor Lee Must Resign and Greg Suhr Must Be Fired.”
He may follow the careful script of Willie Brown, whom he managed to mention at the inauguration, even though it really didn’t make sense, but he is responsible for a special kind of disengaged selling off of this town that I don’t think I have really seen before: a 21st century poltrickster sell-out of frightening proportions.
Crisis after crisis, emergency after emergency, protest after protest – every time folks have arrived at Ed Lie’s “public” office in City Hall, it is locked, his doors are guarded by at least four or more sheriff’s deputies and maybe if we are lucky a 20-something clueless aide comes out to speak to us.
My favorite moment of tragic comedy was when at least 50 families who were facing police profiling of their sons and eviction due to the privatization of public housing by the mayor’s RAD demonstration (read privatizing all the San Francisco’s public housing and turning it into “mixed-income” housing), we showed up singing a gospel song. One of the sheriff’s deputies guarding the door told me and QueenandiX Sheba, fellow staff writer at POOR Magazine, that if we sang one more “note” he would arrest us … for singing. This is the 21st century kingDumb of Ed Lie.
Staying silent about his overseer
Since the brutal execution of Mario Woods by police firing squad for nothing more than being Black and still alive in San Francisco, hundreds of people have filled the streets demanding Chief Suhr be fired. Demanding justice and accountability. Demanding respect for the mama of this young African Sun … yet nothing from the Mayor’s Office. Not even a call of apology, respect or condolences.
“Justice for Mario Woods!” “Fire Chief Suhr … Fire Ed Lee!”
Finally the tragic comedy was over, but not before at least 15 people were dragged out, several arrested and hundreds more unsuccessfully intimidated for the sole act of not being OK with this theft of a public office, a city and thousands of our lives. We agreed to march out together, eventually marching single file down the stairs, demanding justice for Mario Woods and all of us and the firing of Chief Suhr and Ed Lee.
Before we left, a young sister, Melissa Crosby, called us to arms with the famous Assata Shakur chant: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom / It is our duty to win / We must love and protect each other / We have nothing to lose but our chains / We have nothing to lose but our chains!”
To learn more, read the POOR Magazine statement: “For Mario Woods and all crimes of displacement and police terror against our poor, Black, Brown and disabled bodies we, the most impacted, are calling for the resignations of the San Francisco mayor and police chief.”
Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee and co-editor with Tony Robles of POOR Magazine and its many projects and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org.