By Luke Thomas
October 26, 2010
The Rev. Billy Talen from the Church of Stop Shopping led a full choral congregation of sorts in San Francisco yesterday to exorcise the demons of Proposition L, a controversial Sit/Lie measure on the November ballot that would criminalize the act of sitting or lying on a sidewalk between the hours of 7am and 11pm.
“Let’s save the commons, protect public space,” the charismatic preacher said to his flock which included as many as one hundred Prop L protesters. “We’ve got to be able to sit down once in while, praise be.”
Set against a backdrop of dozens of green and yellow ‘No on L’ signs on the corner of Mission and 16th streets, Talen and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir sang a rendition of the First Amendment before Talen began a short sermon denouncing fundamentalism and what he called a paranoia of fear.
“The First Amendment right to be in public space is inviolable,” Talen told FCJ during an interview following the service. “It can’t be compromised for paranoid visions of danger that are painted for us by upper-middle class people, or police, or anybody. What they’re doing is just painting this broad picture of lack of safety because of some kids that don’t take showers in the Haight, or whatever they’re coming up with. Real safety comes from our cooperation, working together.”
“We’re willing to go around the world bombing people because of an idea of lack of safety – that is nothing but paranoid,” Talen added. He called Proposition L a “fascist” idea.
Joining Talen, District 11 Supervisor John Avalos said: “The police chief thinks he can change everything in San Francisco by talking to the establishment people, people who are funding the Prop L campaign, the people who think we can cleanse our sidewalks of the riffraff. We are riffraff. I am riffraff. He’s saying that the Board of Supervisors are playing politics with public safety, but this man has got some serious hubris, and that’s a demon.”
Blaming Mayor Gavin Newsom for a failure of his policies, candidate for District 6 Supervisor Debra Walker said, “Criminalizing the poor is an admission of failure by this mayor on his policies to end homelessness.”
“I am solidly supporting Prop M (police foot patrols). I think that we need to prioritize and mandate foot patrols in the Tenderloin – that’s going to be a big part of my program and policy once I’m elected into City Hall, working with the police and the community to establish effective community policing. All the studies around community policing shows that it (foot patrols) works, especially in urban areas.”
“District 6 is a perfect district for foot patrols, more bicycle patrols, actually engaging in the community to get the community’s help in reducing crime in the streets. So, yes on M, no on L,” Walker added.
Walker said the City would save money with the implementation of targeted foot patrols, the logic being that street crimes will be deterred by the presence of foot patrols resulting in a reduction of downstream prosecution and incarceration costs.
“If how we’re responding to crime on the streets is two or three police car responses, every time we have an emergency call on the street, it’s ridiculous,” she said. “So I think we can cut our automobile budget for the police, pass Prop M, and prioritize foot patrols and I think that the public will see a reduction in crime and safer streets, certainly in District 6 but also throughout the City.”
Debra Walker discusses her opposition to a Sit/Lie ballot measure (Prop L) and support for foot patrols (Prop M) on the November 2010 ballot.
A mother of a nine-month old son, Celina Gomes Sutton, said, “How can he be safe in a city willing to waste police time and money citing people for the innocent act of sitting instead of spending that time and money on developing real solutions and, dare I say, fighting real crime.”
She called Prop L “insane” and “a harmful way of thinking.”
“People do not come here because we promote fear and intolerance. They love it here because we don’t,” Sutton said.
More Videos from the event.