There’s a riot going on in San Francisco. OK, honestly, it’s more like a peaceful uprising. But “riot” sounded better and had the whole Sly and The Family Stone thing going for it. Regardless, direct political action is happening all over San Francisco as we speak, and I’ve somehow managed to find myself in the middle of it.
When I ran for mayor last year, Amy Farah Weiss, Francisco Herrera and I worked together to try and use ranked choice voting to unseat Mayor Ed Lee. While it was ultimately unsuccessful, the resulting movement — 1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee (aka The People’s Campaign) — helped turn thousands of folks, who had previously just cheered from the sidelines, into the political activists who are in the streets as we speak. And it couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time: Super Bowl 50 landed in The City this week.
I honestly can’t imagine a more perfect storm to create the level of dissent occurring in San Francisco at the moment. Beyond Mayor Lee’s electoral embarrassment of only receiving 55 percent of the vote, and a dismal 43 percent approval rating, there’s also the rampant corruption in City Hall, the firing-squad murder of Mario Woods and an epidemic of greed-fueled evictions that are changing the cultural fabric of The City.
Then, as if Lee were dropping a lit match onto a field of dry brush covered in gasoline and dynamite, hizzoner came out and said the homeless “have to leave” to make way for the Super Bowl. It was at that moment San Francisco finally let out a collective, “Oh no he didn’t!”
Who can look at our most fragile members of society — those who’ve endured abuse, mental illness, molestation, war and the rest of humanity’s evilness, those who literally have nothing more than what they can fit in a cart or a bag, those who, if they are lucky, have a tent to sleep in during these rainy El Niño months — who can look at these neighbors of ours and be like, “Nah, brah, you gotta go. We have to let a multibillion dollar sports league throw a weeklong party for a game happening 45 miles away.”
Apparently Ed Lee, that’s who.
Like so many San Franciscans, I was appalled by the mayor’s cold heartedness. So I reached out to the Coalition on Homelessness to organize a protest against this latest bit of absolute fuckery. What we created, the Super Bowl protest to #TackleHomelessness, was a resounding success. Thousands of San Franciscans showed up with signs, banners and tents emblazoned with words all aiming toward the same thing: In San Francisco, we stick up for each other and for our city.
After years of The City repeatedly being sold to the highest bidder, and dozens of groups holding their own separate protests during this time, suddenly it felt like something different was happening. In it’s own very strange way, the Super Bowl actually did something really wonderful for San Francisco. It took the many disparate causes and helped us realize we’ve all been working for the same thing this whole time. The Super Bowl helped solidify the movement to take back San Francisco.
And what’s happening here is just a hyper-microcosm of what’s happening throughout the country. Bernie Sanders just shocked the world by tying Hillary Clinton in Iowa. People are not only finally waking up to the fact they, too, have been sold out for corporate greed, but they are also doing something about it.
Can you smell that, San Francisco? Dissent is in the air, and it is a beautiful thing. I’m ready to take back San Francisco. Are you?
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.