City officials on Monday condemned the targeting of school board members, both women of color, that culminated in the creation of a Facebook page with violent imagery involving swastikas.
Nearly all city supervisors and school board members, along with others in the school community, gathered Monday to denounce threatening behavior toward elected officials after the site targeted School board members Alison Collins and Gabriela Lopez became public.
Collins and Lopez, who are often outspoken on topics of race and equity, were the subject of a Facebook page dubbed “No2racebaiting” launched Friday that put swastikas and x-marks on their faces with the text “NO TO NAZISM IN SFUSD,” the Examiner previously reported.
The page included a video of their photos with swastikas set on fire over a trash can by someone wearing seemingly bloodied gloves. Posts repeatedly bashed the two for their strong positions against Lowell High School’s merit-based admissions, calling them “braindead California trolls [who] are obsessed with race and skin color” who are “promoting racism glorifying one group and racism against others.”
“It is absolutely and unequivocally unacceptable to cross the line into threatening behavior, not now, not ever,” said School Board President Mark Sanchez. “We will not stand for this behavior, this type of racism, this type of sexism.”
Lopez and Collins did not speak at Monday’s conference but denounced the page as beyond standard criticism of public officials. The two are often the focus of heated messages.
“When you name racism, you sometimes get called a racist, that’s a pattern,” Collins previously told the Examiner. “When you let those things lie, they’re poking to see where the line is. We’re still a microcosm of our country’s culture even if we like to think we’re not.”
Community members also denounced the treatment of student delegate Shavonne Hines-Foster, who was the subject of harassment after the board members first discussed a temporary suspension of Lowell’s controversial admissions process due to logistical issues prompted by the pandemic. Public commenters shouted Hines-Foster down after she spoke out against racism against Black students at Lowell like herself.
“This shouldn’t be our normal, where women of color and board commissioners are attacked, threatened, and also harassed daily for speaking their mind,” Hines-Foster said. “To my Lowell community, if you respect Lowell and if you respect politics, you will stop these actions now.”
But the problem goes beyond one Facebook page, and beyond what can be ugly political conversations or exchanges. State Sen. Scott Wiener has also been the subject of anti-Semitic and homophobic death threats after passing a law to end LGBTQ discrimination in the state’s sex offender registration practices.
Attempts to report the Facebook page for removal were unsuccessful. Wiener, who called the video a death threat and use of swastikas offensive to Jewish people who died during the Holocaust, called for a better response from social media platforms.
“There’s this rising tide of threats and harassment and stalking and death threats of elected officials on social media,” Wiener said. “These social media platforms must do more to put a stop to it. It’s poisonous and toxic on so many levels.”
SFUSD graduate Andrew Tang took credit as the page’s creator, calling it a “peaceful protest.” He previously expressed disappointment to the Examiner that culture has become obsessed with race since Black Lives Matter protests erupted earlier this year after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
By Saturday, Tang had apologized and the Facebook page was no longer accessible.
“I actually thought about this and now have the conviction that what I did was indeed offensive and could encourage unpeaceful behavior,” Tang wrote. “I do apologize now. I hope this tension may be resolved. Regardless of what hurtful things people said, this is not how I should respond.”