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Friday, January 8, 2016

Protesters Disrupt Mayor Ed Lee's Inauguration

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2016 at 2:26 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ADAM BRINKLOW
  • Photo by Adam Brinklow

Mayor Ed Lee’s inauguration speech this morning was probably pretty good. But I can only guess, since it was hard to hear a word of it over chants of “Black lives matter” and “Fire Chief Suhr” coming from City Hall's upper galleries.

As promised, demonstrators from Justice For Mario Woods began assembling at around 11 this morning outside City Hall, passing out signs reading “Fire Suhr” and “Jail Killer Cops,“ many of which were painted on the backs of old Francisco Herrera For Mayor campaign placards.

Unable to secure seating on the ground floor, protesters gathered in the second floor gallery, forming a line for elevators that stretched nearly back to the entrance. Board of Supervisors President London Breed (often an advocate for groups like Black Lives Matter) made a point in her opening remarks of asking for order, calling City Hall “the people’s palace” and stressing the solemnity of the occasion.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ADAM BRINKLOW
  • Photo by Adam Brinklow

Her Brotherhood of Man approach bought all of a minute’s quiet, as the mayor was greeted with applause from below but a chorus of boos from above. A fellow with neck tattoos was ejected for greeting the mayor with “Go to hell, you fucking rat,” and at least one woman was arrested for throwing something at the podium, but even at this point the heckling was mostly subdued.

Then came the SFPD color guard, and the crowd let them have it.

Chants of “Fire Chief Suhr” drowned out much of the proceedings, and sheriffs made like annoyed hall monitors, picking through the crowd to confiscate signs. When chants didn’t die down after the first minute, cops with riot gear and batons advanced on the crowd, and for a heart-stopping second it looked like everything was about to spin out of control.

But organizers actually pleaded with protesters to maintain something resembling order. “We can break out all hell when it’s all over, but let’s not get arrested if we don’t have to,” said one (who declined to give comment or identify himself, saying he wasn’t authorized to speak).

“We can police our own,” he added, speaking to the cadre of about two dozen officers. “We’ll make sure you don’t need to use those nightsticks.”

Sheriffs backed off, and for the rest of the ceremony a weird détente prevailed, in which rabble-rousers were permitted to boo and catcall while hulking police kept watch from nearby, only occasionally removing someone.

The mayor’s roughly 20-minute speech was punctuated by jeers. Now and then he even seemed to be setting them up.

“We have to get guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Lee said, concluding a list of promises for his second full term.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ADAM BRINKLOW
  • Photo by Adam Brinklow
“Like the cops?” came the reply from the crowd. There’s just no way he couldn’t have seen that one coming.

Despite calls to “break out all hell,” demonstrators opted to march out in more or less orderly fashion, chanting “Fire Chief Suhr” at assembled cops before gathering outside.

Phelicia Jones, speaking for SEIU 1021 (outspoken supporters of Justice for Mario Woods), addressed the media.

“It’s unacceptable for cops to continue killing people of color and get nothing more than a few days off work,” she said, calling the Woods shooting “Our Emmett Till moment," referring to an African-American teenager lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after flirting with a white woman. The assembled then laid down a list of demands, including firing the chief (of course) and calling for an independent investigation into the Woods shooting.

“We’re putting Ed Lee on notice,” added Jones. “We’re not through.”

Well, congratulations on your continued success at the ballot box, Mr. Mayor. But are you sure you still want the job?

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