Mayor Ed Lee’s inauguration to his second four-year term was lauded with both protest and celebration.
The mayor spoke for just over 20 minutes. Read a transcript of his speech here.
Board of Supervisors President London Breed opened the ceremony Friday with an apparent attempt to quiet the unrest under the gilded dome of City Hall.
“This is the people’s palace. It is home to each and every one of us. Let us treat our home and each other with the respect we all deserve,” she said. “This is where people don’t always see eye to eye but we are still able to come together.”
City Hall had many areas restricted in anticipation of protesters.
When Breed first referred to Lee, he was greeted by applause mixed with boos from pockets of protesters who were mostly gathered on the second floor, overlooking the ceremony below. Mid-way through speech, during resumed chants of “Fire Chief Suhr,” Lee looked up to the second floor from the podium on the first floor in the rotunda and addressed the protesters, “Thank you, we heard you” in an apparent effort to quiet them.
Deputy sheriffs confiscated posters, many of which related to the December’s fatal police shooting of Mario Woods, a black man, as they filed into City Hall, moments before the inauguration began at 11:30 a.m. The group continued to express their desire to have Police Chief Greg Suhr fired by the mayor following the shooting.
The proceedings were temporarily interrupted when protesters erupted in a chant, “Fire Chief Suhr, Fire Chief Suhr.” Deputy sheriffs showed up in riot gear threatening to clear the floor. The proceedings resumed as the chants quieted down and order was restored.
Lee was reelected to his post with 55 percent of the vote on Nov. 4.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “I think I can say it’s good to be home, but I’m not too sure about that.”
“I took this oath three times as mayor,” Feinstein recalled. “It’s the best day there is. I am not sure about this day being that. But I want you to know that as the 43rd mayor I wish you all of the best. The City is in good financial shape. It’s got some problems but I am confident that you and your team will solve them.”
Feinstein, who was among those supporting Lee as mayor in 2011, was critical of the mayor last year when it came to the legalization of short term rentals like Airbnb. Feinstein had argued for tougher restrictions than what the mayor signed into law.
One protester was escorted out of the building by deputy sheriffs as she continued to chant, “Fire Chief Suhr. Justice for Mario Woods.” Other protesters were also escorted away if they continued to chant after being asked to stop.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee inauguration Friday, January 8, 2016 (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)
After administering the oath of office, Gov. Jerry Brown had parting words for the mayor as the noise of protesters filled the building: “I’ll leave you to your fate.”
And then, at noon, Lee began to address those in attendance, but “Justice for Mario Woods” chants rang out, stalling the mayor’s address.
“I am honored and humbled to serve as your mayor once again,” Lee began. “I prefer to be measured by deeds, not words.”
He continued, “We need to do more of what works,” Lee said. “We need to build more housing, period… San Francisco has always been expensive.”
The mayor retold his story of humble beginnings, noting how he grew up in public housing. “Every person deserves equal opportunity and basic dignity,” Lee said. A protester shouted out: “Prove it!”
Jennifer Raviv was among the protesters on the second floor of City Hall chanting. She said she was there “in solidarity over a lot of issues.” “Ed Lee has turned his back on the people who have made this city great,” Raviv said.
The mayor didn’t directly mention Mario Woods and Police Chief Suhr, but he did speak broadly about improving the Police Department. “I won’t stop until we build better trust between law enforcement and the communities they’re sworn to protect, especially young men of color,” Lee said.
The mayor concluded his address at 12:24 pm. “We’re still the greatest city in the world,” the mayor said. “I am invigorated. I am energized and I am ready to get back to work.”
Breed returned to the podium and said, “Thank you to all the protesters who have made this the most interesting swearing in ceremony I have ever attended.”
Not every supervisor paid close attention to the mayor’s address. “I was chairing a conference call and didn’t hear the whole thing,” Supervisor John Avalos wrote in a text message to the San Francisco Examiner. He added, “I was distracted and pained to see where The City is at right now.”
Above, Mario Woods protesters confront Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and ask him to take a position on the shooting.
After the event, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who served as San Francisco mayor between 2004 and 2011, said in response to the protesters, “[Former mayor] Willie and I were asking ourselves, ‘Why didn’t this happen to us?’ We didn’t know how good we had it.” Both mayors had also faced sharp criticism from San Francisco’s more left-leaning politicians and community allies but never faced protests at their inaugurations.
Newsom added, “I think the mayor did an extraordinary job under difficult circumstances. Few people can go up there like that and follow through.”
When former Mayor Willie Brown, Lee’s longtime ally, was asked to comment about the protesters and the mayor’s speech, he said he was unable to hear either. “I just turned my hearing aid off.”
Daniel Muhammed, a longtime San Francisco resident, said, “We’re out here for three main demands: Fire Chief Suhr. Number two, prosecute these officers who killed Mario Woods on Dec 2. Number three, we want an independent investigation immediately.”
Muhammed added that “it’s unfortunate us as San Franciscans can’t even celebrate an inauguration because of this tragic, senseless execution by the San Francisco Police Department.
We’re not going to allow the blood of the black people to keep dripping all through San Francisco while everyone can believe this is a party and have a fine time.”
Supervisor David Campos, who attended the inauguration, said, “I was surprised he didn’t address the protest head on.”
Campos,a progressive politician critical of the mayor, said Lee should have discussed the specifics of police reform in a meaningful way. “It was the elephant in the room and it was a pretty loud elephant.”
Campos said the way Mayor Ed Lee ignored the protesters and the issue was a symbol of what has been the mayor’s overall approach to the various challenges facing many residents.
Calling the mayor’s speech “very vague in general,” Campos said that “someone has to provide leadership.”
“If it’s not coming from Room 200 [the Mayor’s Office], it’s going to have to come, as it’s been coming now, from the Board of Supervisors,” he said.
District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin recently took his seat on Dec. 8 after toppling the mayor’s appointee in the November election, shifting the political alignment on the board into a progressive majority.
“As the mayor said, this is not about words but deeds,” Peskin said. “I am hopeful over 2016 the board and the mayor will be able to work together to address the things that have heretofore not been addressed.” Those issues, Peskin said, include tightening regulations on short-term rentals and the cracking down on the Academy of Art’s gobbling up of rent-controlled units.
Political consultant Jim Ross said that the protest was another example of the sign of the times where there are many people who are facing uncertainty in a city with rising rents, evictions and income inequality. “There’s a lot of fear and anger in San Francisco right now,” Ross said. “A lot of that is looking for an outlet. I think this protest is an example of that.”
Ross said that the mayor’s “numbers are lagging right now. He is not driving an agenda. It’s all kind of the same rhetoric.”
But Ross said mayors have the unique opportunity to set the agenda if and when they want to. “There’s a path for a comeback for the mayor,” he said.
— Joe Fitz Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) January 8, 2016
San Francisco Examiner staff writer Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this story.