Mayor Ed Lee’s public headaches are about to enter the national spotlight.
Lee was booed by members of the audience at his recent inauguration event. Shouts from protesters could be heard outside his home at 5 a.m. recently. And jeers sent him trotting off-stage as he spoke at an event recognizing the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Now, protesters upset about the fatal police shooting of Mario Woods plan to put the oft-besieged mayor in the hot seat starting next week for the Super Bowl 50 festivities, known as “Super Bowl City.”
Those protesters are about to run the ball all the way to the end-zone. Can you imagine a protest against alleged San Francisco police brutality broadcast to a national audience on CBS?
Those calling for justice for Woods will certainly have their voices heard — voices that have called for Lee to fire San Francisco Police Department Chief Greg Suhr.
In a Facebook announcement of their first protest, the Mario Woods Coalition wrote of Mayor Lee, “We have promised him no peace until we get justice. We will bring it to his precious Super Bowl City at its Grand
Opening this Saturday.”
Woods was a black man shot and killed by SFPD officers on Dec. 2, 2015, as they pursued him for allegedly slashing someone with a knife. The shooting was viewed thousands of times via Instagram video, leading to even conservative Democrats in The City calling for a change to police tactics.
Knife wielders, critics say, should be disarmed, not shot down by firing squad.
The impact of a Super Bowl protest, political consultant Jim Ross told us, could be huge.
“It would be a major embarrassment for the mayor, but also potentially damaging to The City’s convention and tourism industry,” he said. “It could make San Francisco seem unfriendly to large events.”
The first announced protest asks supporters of Woods to wear black, bring a sign and meet at Union Square at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The coalition will likely not stop there.
Sources also tell On Guard the protests will extend well past the first day — a series of protests may be planned for Super Bowl City, hitting multiple venues, like those seen on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
Most activists were quiet about tactics, but some indicated the protest will go beyond simple picketing — and may be as impactful as the recent Bay Bridge shutdown.
Felicia Jones, with the Mario Woods Coalition, told On Guard, “I’m not going to reveal to you future protests.”
And the Mario Woods Coalition isn’t alone in its action.
In direct response to Mayor Lee saying the homeless “have to leave” for the Super Bowl, about 5,000 protesters were invited to storm Super Bowl City on Feb. 3, using the hashtag #TackleHomelessness.
That event is hosted by San Francisco Examiner columnist and cad-about-town Broke-Ass Stuart, in conjunction with the Coalition on Homelessness.
As for the Mario Woods Coalition, Malkia Cyril, an ally and spokesperson for Black Lives Matter protesters told On Guard, “I don’t know if there are [protests planned], I want to be clear about that.”
But referring to the mayor and San Francisco, Cyril said, “If they don’t want protests at Super Bowl 50, they should immediately fire Chief Suhr. Then they could, with any credibility at all, talk to the black communities of The City.”
Chief Suhr recently addressed possible Super Bowl City protests at a press conference by saying police “are working to facilitate everyone’s first amendment rights as best we can.”
However, he offered a somewhat ominous warning, saying, “in the event people start bumping into other people’s constitutional rights, we’ll have to make some calls.”
No doubt to facilitate those “calls,” law enforcement agencies will deploy a bevy of surveillance devices around Super Bowl City. This is perhaps partially justified with the threat of terrorism hanging over the party, but U.S. law enforcement has a shady, well-documented history of surveilling even peaceful protesters.
Thankfully, many protesters are mindful of police surveillance. Signal, an encrypted app, is the communications mode of choice lately for those planning civil disobedience.
Still, protesters should ditch their easily surveilled cellphones. For security purposes, you’re better off communicating by carrier pigeon.
That way, Mayor Ed Lee will hear their message, loud and clear.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at email@example.com.