San Francisco elected officials are calling for a change in leadership in the local chapter of the NAACP after its president on Monday accused the Board of Supervisors of “racist politics” and of “standing in the way of progress” for The City’s African American community.
At a press conference held Monday, the civil rights organization’s long-time leader, the Rev. Amos Brown, led a group of African American faith leaders and community activists in calling out what he described as a “clique” on the board for “resisting policies benefiting African Americans” — specifically policies brought forth by The City’s first black female mayor, London Breed.
However Bayview District Supervisor Shamann Walton and School Board President Stevon Cook, who are also black, on Tuesday said that the organization has gone too far.
They called the NAACP’s current leadership “out of touch” with issues affecting the black community.
“There are major issues that exist in the black community in San Francisco, and it seems that every time the leaders that have been put in place to represent our community put a policy forward, the leadership of NAACP loudly goes against those leaders in the black community unless they are the mayor,” said Walton. “It’s time that we call it out.”
Brown told the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday that the current Board of Supervisors has failed to take a strong stance on tackling systemic racism. By pushing back against Breed on some of the City’s most pressing issues, the board is perpetuating the status quo, he argued.
“This mayor came up with a plan for conservatorship for homeless people, so that they are taken care of, given tender, loving and focused care. [But] you have certain people playing politics, people who are supposed to be policy makers, interfering with what the mayor is trying to do,” said Brown.
In a statement issued Monday, Brown specifically referred to disagreements between the board’s progressive leaders and Breed — including the board’s support for the closure of The City’s Juvenile Hall facility and opposition to Breed’s controversial appointment of Suzy Loftus as interim District Attorney earlier this month.
In recent weeks, Breed has faced criticism for appointing Loftus, a candidate in the November race for District Attorney, to fill the position after District Attorney George Gascon announced his resignation earlier this month. Other candidates in the race have said that the appointment gives Loftus an unfair advantage.
The move inspired a proposal by Supervisor Gordon Mar that would block mayors from appointing candidates to the position they are seeking within 90 days of an election
Brown said the board was “changing up the rules in the middle of the game” on Breed, and called their treatment of her “disrespectful.”
“It doesn’t make you racist to disagree with a decision that other leaders make,” said Walton, who this summer also engaged in a public disagreement with Brown over a proposal to shut down The City’s Juvenile Detention Center.
San Francisco made history after the board voted almost unanimously in June to shutter its Juvenile Hall by the end of 2021. Walton, who was incarcerated as a youth and was one of the legislation’s authors, argued that the center disproportionately incarcerated African American youth and other young people of color for low level offenses.
However Brown alleged that Walton had not met with the NAACP to discuss the impacts of shuttering Juvenile Hall while drafting the legislation and said that the plan lacked alternatives for youth who must be detained. Breed also opposed the proposal and at the time called for reforms to the facility in lieu of a complete closure.
Walton and Cook were critical of the NAACP’s handling of a recent scandal involving alleged fraud in the cleanup of the toxic Hunters Point shipyard by U.S. Navy contractor Tetra Tech. The NAACP invited Tetra Tech to a meeting rather than “ostracizing them as a company set out to do harm” in the community, they said.
Brown has also been at odds with the school board over its choice of superintendent and its criticism of charter schools, which he supports. He also called a press conference over the summer to criticize the San Francisco school board’s decision to paint over a New Deal-era mural inside of Washington High School that black and brown students and their parents described as offensive.
Cook said that he was unhappy about being at odds with the NAACP.
“I can serve in my role and not engage with the organization, but I really do want to work collaboratively with them,” he said, but added that “calling the supervisors racist” is “another example of the problems that we have.”
He said the organization should set a better example for future black leaders.
“We are calling someone like [Walton] a racist, when he’s built a career in the Bayview community creating jobs and fighting for people when it wasn’t popular,” said Cook. “It’s just really disappointing to have an elder, to have leaders in the community, try to throw dirt on the name of a person who has the utmost integrity and who has given a lot.”