By Luke Thomas
February 16, 2013
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, his wife, Eliana Lopez, and their four-year-old son, Theo, shone Thursday during a Valentine’s Day celebration of “One Billion Rising,” a global awareness campaign demanding an end to violence against women and girls.
Conceived by award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, One Billion Rising began as a call to action to respond to the sobering statistic that as many as one-in-three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes. The worldwide coordinated event was celebrated by as many as two-hundred countries.
Mirkarimi and Lopez, you’ll recall, were involved in a heated argument on December 31, 2011, eight days before he was officially sworn into office, during which Mirkarimi grabbed Lopez and caused a bruise on her arm. He subsequently pled to, and was convicted of, one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment, triggering a failed effort by Mayor Ed Lee to permanently remove the democratically elected sheriff from office. Lee’s failure to oust Mirkarimi was followed by a subsequent failed effort by Mirkarimi’s political opponents to drum up financial support for what would be a costly and uncertain recall election.
Throughout a protracted nine-month legal ordeal, Lopez and Mirkarimi steadfastly maintained that the zealous nature of Mirkarimi’s prosecution by District Attorney George Gascón, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Mayor Lee was, in large part, politically motivated – an opportunity to remove a political maverick who, as a progressive and independently-minded District 5 Supervisor, made enemies for his efforts to legislate mandatory police foot patrols to deter street and violent crimes. As Supervisor, Mirkarimi also voted against then-City Administrator Ed Lee’s appointment to serve as interim mayor following former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s election to Lt. Governor; his opposition based on a belief that Lee would break his promise to the Board of Supervisors and run for a full term with full advantage of incumbency for what should have been an open seat.
Following Mirkarimi’s reinstatement by four of eleven members of the Board of Supervisors, Lee and Gascón made demands on Sheriff Mirkarimi to recuse himself from functions of his office related to domestic violence. But those demands were proved short-sighted Thursday when Mirkarimi invited Magalie Bonneau-Marcil, founder and producer of Dancing Without Borders, to engage county jail inmates – some of whom have been victims and perpetrators of serious cases of domestic violence – in the participation of the One Billion Rising awareness campaign through choreographed dance.
Lopez, an established Venezuelan actress and accomplished dancer, joined Bonneau-Marcil and the Dancing Without Borders troupe to dance with the inmates. She also led a group of choreographed dancers where Gascón and Lee gave speeches on the steps of City Hall to as many as two-thousand One Billion Rising, mostly female, attendees.
“They (inmates) really need to feel someone cares, that they are included,” Lopez said. “They were so happy to see all of us there. Ross was there also, so it means a lot for them. They were so warm, so nice, so happy that, not only me, but all the dancers that were there. They were so happy to be included.”
“I am so proud of what is happening and I think this is the power of women,” Lopez added. “This is against violence from women to women, from women to men, from men to women – so there are a lot of things that we have to stop and I am so happy to be able to be part of this.”
In addition to domestic violence, Lopez said racism, discrimination and unequal pay are other forms of violence.
For his part, Mirkarimi said he was not invited to take part in the official festivities on the steps of City Hall.
“Did they send me a Valentine? No, they did not,” he said. “That’s not going to deter me. I’m not going to shy away from my advocacy and desire to see us do everything we can to eradicate violence and domestic violence.”
Time to Bury the Hatchet?
Asked, in the interest of inter-departmental cooperation, if it is time for relations between his office, the mayor’s office and district attorney’s office, to be normalized, Mirkarimi told Fog City, “We have constantly extended that we need to work together on behalf of the public – and in the spirit of reconciliation, crickets are chirping.”
The same question was posed to Gascón: “Today is a day of celebration,” Gascón responded. “We are coming together with women and men around the world to say we want to stop the violence and I want to make sure that the message that comes out of it today is that we’re here to stand with women around the world to make sure that the violence stops. San Francisco has done an incredible job today. We’re closing this incredible event worldwide and I am very proud to be a part of this – and this is what we should be concentrating on today, celebration and stopping the violence.”
Asked to comment on Sheriff Mirkarimi’s initiative to include inmates in the One Billion Rising event, Gascón said, “I think it’s absolutely wonderful.”
Some might say it’s “wonderful” to hear Gascón say something positive about our duly elected Sheriff.
As for the mayor, his office did not respond to a request seeking comment. We’ll update this post if a response is forthcoming.
One Billion Rising event Photos: