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Opponents of San Francisco’s Prop E Hold Rally in Front of City Hall

Activists and community members held a rally Wednesday morning in front of City Hall in San Francisco to protest Prop E, a ballot measure that would allow the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to install more public surveillance, reduce officer reporting requirements for use of force and expand vehicle pursuits.

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No On Prop E (NOPE) supporters stand outside of San Francisco City Hall to urge voters to vote against a ballot measure that would allow the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to install more public surveillance, reduce officer reporting requirements for use of force and expand vehicle pursuits. Photo credit: The Worker Agency
No On Prop E (NOPE) supporters stand outside of San Francisco City Hall to urge voters to vote against a ballot measure that would allow the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to install more public surveillance, reduce officer reporting requirements for use of force and expand vehicle pursuits. Photo credit: The Worker Agency

By Magaly Muñoz

Activists and community members held a rally Wednesday morning in front of City Hall in San Francisco to protest Prop E, a ballot measure that would allow the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to install more public surveillance, reduce officer reporting requirements for use of force and expand vehicle pursuits.

Speakers at the rally explained that voting yes for Prop E would take away independent oversight and allow SFPD to cut corners in their reporting.

Nathan Sheard, Managing Director of Advocacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, expressed concern that the measure would make San Francisco a testing ground for unproven surveillance technology with no regards to central freedoms and would amplify racial bias in the department.

Sheard drew attention to the landmark 2019 decision by the Board of Supervisors banning facial recognition software because it threatened the civil liberties and rights of SF residents. He argued that this new measure would infringe upon those rights.

“Unchecked surveillance is not the solution to our city’s challenges. If passed, Proposition E would expand secret surveillance while stripping away hard-won safety policies,” Sheard said.

Also in attendance was SF Police Commissioner Kevin Benedicto, who suggested that Mayor London Breed was promoting the measure for the ballot as a reelection strategy. He recalled that a similar measure had come up in 2018 when the mayor was first running and she stated she had concerns, but now in 2024, she’s backing the proposition with big money by her side.

Benedicto shared that legal bar associations, nonprofits and city leaders are all in support of taking a stand against the measure, which can sometimes seem rare in politics.

“The other side might have the money, but we have the people on our side,” Benedicto said.

He explained that if the measure passed, safeguards meant to protect citizens would be thrown out and would allow officers to cut corners and would also not allow a lot of room to make changes or go back on the proposition if they found it did not work for the city. The initiative would have to be undone by another ballot measure.

Benedicto added that Prop E establishes a dangerous precedent and is not how the city should address its public safety concerns, considering that the measure would disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities, who are often victims of racial bias by police.

Members of the community who have experienced the negative effects of SFPDs racial bias and consequences of vehicle pursuits also spoke at the rally.

Julia Arroyo, co-director of the Young Women’s Freedom Center, shared that from a young age she had frequent encounters with SFPD while living in the Mission District. She recalled the constant stops and searches she and her friends underwent on the way to school, saying that she even adjusted her morning schedule to accommodate the interactions.

It wasn’t until years later when she was pregnant with her first child that she had been stopped by officers and instructed to sit on the ground until a female officer could arrive to conduct the search, that Arroyo realized the frequency of these stops were not normal. She shared that people had begun crowding around her to make sure she was okay and calling out SFPD for treating a nine month pregnant woman so harshly.

Arroyo stressed the importance of citizen oversight so that the public can be made aware of when they are treating residents in a similar fashion and hold those officers accountable.

Ciara Keegan tearfully shared the story of becoming a victim of a car accident due to a vehicle pursuit by SFPD last December. She said the person who crashed into her had been involved in an armed mugging and was running from the police in the opposite lane to her vehicle, where the suspect’s car then skidded right into Keegan’s car, sending her to the hospital.

According to CHP data, 38% of about 150 vehicle pursuits by SFPD resulted in a collision from 2018 to 2023, and 15% of those chases involved a collision in which at least one person was injured.

Keegan was informed by lawyers that a lawsuit against the police department would likely be fruitless because officers have immunity in cases of accidents by vehicle pursuit. She shared that although she was able to walk out of the situation alive, she wouldn’t wish the emotional and physical trauma on anyone.

“I could have been killed or suffered life changing injuries. Proposition E treats San Franciscans as collateral damage. But I am not collateral damage. We are not collateral damage,” Keegan said.

 

 

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