Protesters demonstrate outside the Far East Cafe in Chinatown after Mayor London Breed appointed Suzy Loftus as interim District Attorney on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Amid protests and criticism, Breed defends District Attorney appointment

The disruption forced the mayor’s staff to make a venue change.

Protesters gathered in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown Friday afternoon to object to Mayor London Breed’s planned announcement that she would appoint Suzy Loftus as District Attorney just weeks before the Nov. 5 election.

The disruption forced the mayor’s staff to make a venue change and those gathered walked a few blocks over to Far East Cafe on Grant Avenue where Breed showed up and protesters were prevented from entering by a line of Police Officers stationed outside the entrance.

Muffled shouts were still heard upstairs as Breed announced, a half hour later than planned, she would appoint Loftus as District Attorney. Current office holder District Attorney George Gascon tendered his resignation to Breed Thursday, effective Oct. 18.

Critics of the move said Breed was undermining democracy and she ought to wait to let the voters decide.

Mayor London Breed speaks at a news conference to appoint Suzy Loftus as interim District Attorney at Far East Cafe in Chinatown on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The appointment gives Loftus a boost in the contest, where she faces challengers like deputy public defender Chesa Boudin, deputy state attorney general Leif Dautch and prosecutor Nancy Tung.

Loftus is more aligned with San Francisco’s political moderates while Boudin picked up endorsements from progressive politicians.

“It just wouldn’t be San Francisco without a nice protest,” Breed joked. She was joined on stage at the establishment by politicians like Assembly member David Chiu and Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Catherine Stefani and Ahsha Safai.

Breed used the moment to praise Loftus for her accomplishments and for working with her in the past to deal with violence in the Fillmore District at the time when Gavin Newsom was mayor.

Breed said when she received Gascon’s resignation, “I couldn’t help but get excited about the future because I know that Suzy Loftus is the right person for this job.”

Suzy Loftus listens to her oldest daughter Maureen speak at a news conference while embracing her other daughters, Grace and Vivienne, after she was appointed interim District Attorney by Mayor London Breed at a news conference at Far East Cafe in Chinatown on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Gascon announced earlier last year that he would not run for re-election in San Francisco and cited his elderly mother’s failing health. On Thursday, he sent a letter to Breed announcing he would resign to move to Los Angeles where he will explore a run for District Attorney in that city.

“There is no way that I am going to leave this office vacant for the next three months,” Breed said. “I couldn’t think of anyone better to step in at this critical time.”

After Breed’s remarks, Loftus acknowledged the protesters. “For anyone whose trust I have yet to earn I will work everyday to earn your trust,” she said.

Other candidates for District Attorney blasted the move.

“This is an obvious power grab by a political establishment determined to protect themselves rather than the people of San Francisco,” Boudin told the San Francisco Examiner. “Voters will see this is about politics, not public safety.”

Boudin said his campaign “support is strong and getting stronger every day” and voters “want a DA who is accountable to them, not to the mayor.”

“I’m confident our campaign can overcome this last minute effort to preserve the failed status quo,” he said.

Candidate Tung also was critical in a statement.

“Mayor London Breed appointing her endorsed candidate for District Attorney, just days before people start voting, reeks of cronyism and political backroom deals,” Tung said. “This is a blatant move to inappropriately influence this critically important election, and yet another example of the District Attorney’s Office being politicized and used for personal favoritism.”

Breed, who referred to the District Attorney contest as a “wide open race,” told reporters after the announcement that she felt it was her responsibility to fill the seat with someone “I can trust to do the job.”

“You look at the Tenderloin and people are wondering why aren’t we doing more,” Breed said. “We need to start doing more sooner rather than later and I don’t want to leave the District Attorney’s Office unattended.”

She said, “We don’t just leave an office open just because an election is coming up — especially one of the most important offices in our city.”

But Breed’s explanation didn’t sit well with protesters.

One managed to follow a group of people into the establishment, order Chinese food and then sneak up the backstairs to confront Breed who was talking to reporters.

“You are undermining our democracy. You are interrupting the democratic process. Anybody but Suzy Loftus,” shouted Dylan Yep, 27, a San Francisco resident.

He later told the Examiner that Breed should have simply gone with the person Gascon said would run the office absent an appointment, his chief of staff, Cristine Soto DeBerry.

Loftus will serve the remainder of Gascon’s term through January 2020, beginning Oct. 18 when Breed will officially appoint her to the post. Loftus would continue to serve a four-year term if she prevails in November.

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