Last night over the course of the evening about 100 people attended a protest organized by the Harvey Milk Democratic Club (HMDC) in Dolores Park voicing their opposition to Castro’s Dist. 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener’s proposed legislation that would enact a curfew in all City Parks from midnight to five a.m.
Protestors believe the measure unfairly targets the homeless and is another legal weapon like the City’s controversial No Sit/No Lie law being put on the books to punish people for being poor. They want to see more solution based approaches to the City’s homeless issue and less legislative and punitive ones.
The legislation’s author, Sup. Scott Wiener, says nothing could be further from the truth. He states emphatically that he wrote the law to give the police another tool to use to combat ongoing park vandalism and illegal dumping that is costing San Francisco’s Park and Rec Department close to a million dollars annually to repair. He has also pointed out in several interviews that San Francisco is the only major US city that doesn’t have uniform public park hours.
It was a very cold Monday night as protestors set up sleeping bags joining a handful of homeless campers who sought refuge in the Park. San Francisco Police presence was minimal, but, they did continue to drop by the protest keeping an eye on the gathering. Thought the protest was an act of civil disobedience no arrests were made. The protestors were lively and committed despite the winds and cold snap.
Tom Temprano, President of HMDC and actions architect, stayed the entire night in the park was pleased with the turn out and media coverage. He noted that the only people he saw last night in park were folks looking for somewhere to sleep not cause trouble.
SFPD Police Chief, Greg Suhr, supports the Supervisor’s attempt to, as he told a KTVU reporter, “add another tool to the tool box” in the ongoing struggle to curb vandals and illegal dumping hitting City parks. He says the law will not be used by SFPD to conduct park sweeps for the homeless.
Homeless advocates aren’t buying the explanations from either the Supervisor or the Chief. Opponents point out that there are already laws on the books regarding vandalism and sleeping in the parks that aren’t being enforced now due to SFPD’s limited resources and staffing issues. They wonder how exactly this new law will be implemented when SFPD’s force hands are already so full.
Today the debate moves to City Hall where the Board of Supervisors will weigh in on the subject. Harvey Milk Democratic Club and other homeless advocates plan on rallying on the Polk side steps of City Hall at 1 PM prior to the Boards scheduled 2PM meeting.