Protesters cut short questioning of San Francisco mayor over drug crisis

Protesters cut short a rare outdoor meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday where the board president had planned to question Mayor London Breed over the city's drug crisis

ByJANIE HAR Associated Press
May 23, 2023, 8:11 PM
San Francisco Mayor Drug Crisis
San Francisco Mayor London Breed waves after speaking at a rare outdoor meeting of the Board of Supervisors at UN Plaza in San Francisco, Tuesday, May 23, 2023. Mayor Breed attempted to answer questions from supervisors demanding her administration do more to shut down open-air drug dealing, but the meeting had to be moved indoors to City Hall because of disruptions. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Protesters cut short a rare outdoor meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday where the board president had planned to question Mayor London Breed on her administration's response to the crisis of brazen open-air drug dealing.

Board President Aaron Peskin moved the first part of the board's weekly meeting to a plaza in the troubled Tenderloin neighborhood near City Hall, where rampant dealing and drug use take place. He asked the mayor if she would commit to setting up an emergency operations center and coordinate departments to shut down “public drug dealing” in open sites such as in the plaza within 90 days.

But heckling and chants of “no more cops” from the large crowd were so loud that Peskin moved the meeting back to City Hall before the mayor could answer. Breed did not answer Peskin’s question directly after the meeting reconvened indoors.

The fentanyl crisis has hit all of California, including San Francisco. In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom sent in the California Highway Patrol and California National Guard to help crack down on drug traffickers in the city as overdose deaths have soared.

Breed has clashed with members of the board who say more police and arrests are not the way to solve the city's drug crisis. She declared a three-month emergency over the drug crisis in the Tenderloin in 2021, and nearly a year later vowed another crackdown on drugs in the low-income neighborhood, but little has changed.

Breed has said that using drugs in public is not acceptable and that repeat offenders need to take the help offered or face consequences.

“We can’t keep speaking out of both sides of our mouth. On the one hand, we want change and we want to hold people accountable,” Breed said before the meeting was moved. “And on the other hand, we’re willing to let people get away with murder.”

Peskin said it was not a matter of resources, but coordination. He agreed with the mayor that the problem is not a new one, “but it is one that has become so visible that many San Franciscans do not feel safe.”

San Francisco's downtown core, of which the U.N. Plaza is part of, has not bounced back from the pandemic as other cities have. Tech employees have opted to work remotely, reducing foot traffic that supported downtown shops.

After supervisors left U.N. Plaza, a woman threw a brick at a group of high school students carrying flags for the meeting and struck a girl. A 26-year-old San Francisco woman was booked on accusations of child endangerment and assault with a deadly weapon, said San Francisco officer Robert Rueca. The minor was not seriously hurt.

The mayor appears at board meetings once a month to answer questions from supervisors.