Homeless, disability rights advocates disrupt town hall to protest state conservatorship bill

Erika Hidalgo (center) listens to speakers at a rally agaist State Bill 40 in front of Hastings Law School where Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu were set to speak on the issue on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Jordan Davis of the SRO Task Force speaks to the small group of protesters in front of Hastings Law School ahead of the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Jessica Lehman leads a chant to the small group of protesters in front of Hastings Law School ahead of the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
A sign held by protesters in front of Hastings Law School ahead of the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Protesters hold signs in protest of State Bill 40 in front of Hastings Law School ahead of the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Robert Marquez speaks to the small group of protesters in front of Hastings Law School ahead of the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Protesters hand out materials regarding the concens surrounding SB40 in front of Hastings Law School ahead of the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Tommi Avicolli Mecca (left) and David Williams (right) talk about protest chants in front of Hastings Law School ahead of the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
The Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney speaks to the crowd at the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
A registered nurse actively yelling at Senator Scott Wiener amid shouts from other attendees at the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Protesters holding up a sign at the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
A woman opposed to SB40 speaks out ahead of Senator Scott Wiener’s comment despite a man inches from her face telling her to stop at the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu listen to the outcries of several protesters at the Town Hall they are hosting at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Assemblymember David Chiu speaks at the Town Hall held to discuss SB40 at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Senator Scott Wiener addresses the protesters in the crowd at the Town Hall held by himself and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Assemblymember Phil Ting at the Town Hall held by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu at Hastings Law School on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)

By Ellie Doyen

Special to the S.F. Examiner

Tempers flared as opponents of controversial legislation to expand conservatorships for homeless people interrupted a town hall hearing hosted Saturday by state Sen. Scott Wiener, and assemblymembers David Chiu and Phil Ting, who intended to discuss issues impacting their districts.

Senate Bill 40 is Wiener’s revision and expansion on his previous conservatorship bill, SB 1045 — both address procedures regarding 5150 psychiatric holds and subsequent conservatorship for people deemed “incapable” of handling their own health. Local advocates of the bill include Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman who argue that the bill would only affect those who are most at risk of endangering themselves.

Some two dozen protesters — including representatives of the Coalition on Homelessness, disability rights groups and medical professionals who organized as the Voluntary Services First Coalition — rallied outside of UC Hastings College of the Law, where the hearing was scheduled to denounce what they called “an erosion of conservatorship protections” won previously from SB 1045.

Holding up a banner that read “ask a survivor of forced treatment”, the protesters subsequently disrupted the hearing for nearly 25 minutes in an effort to confront Wiener about the legislation, barring him from speaking until some of the hearings other attendees fired back telling them to “shut up” and “sit down.”

The protestors shared personal testimonials about their struggles regarding San Francisco’s homelessness crisis, despite facing backlash from other attendees who shouted over them.

“I have an issue, I want answers,” said one attendee addressing the protesters, as the state leaders looked on in silence. “Wait your turn.”

One of the event’s organizers twice threatened the rowdy crowd with cancelling the meeting.

Among the controversies surrounding SB 40 is a revision that would no longer require patients to be offered an outpatient option before being forced into conservatorship. Advocates with the coalition said that homeless constituents were not at the table during the development of SB 40, which they oppose over potential civil rights violations.

“We can’t let the sheriffs decide, we have to let the professionals decide,” said Jordan Davis of the SRO Task Force. “A lot of mental health people do not want this. We need community and not coercion, because it is a lot cheaper than locking us up.”

While The City has identified dozens of people potentially eligible for the holds, a requirement of the state law authorizing the local program has inadvertently limited the pool of those who could qualify to fewer than 10, the San Francisco Examiner has previously reported.

Opponents to the bill maintain that forcing people into treatment is not the appropriate response to The City’s homelessness and mental health crisis.

“We believe that something as momentous as taking away a person’s’ civil and legal rights and stripping their autonomy — something more dire than what is done to jailed prisoners — must be done with the utmost seriousness and deliberation,” said COH director Jennifer Friedenbach in a statement.

“We oppose the use of police authority to detain and incarcerate people with mental illness or substance use disorders — especially people who are homeless and therefore particularly vulnerable to mistreatment by police,” she added. “Care should not begin with handcuffs.”

Laura Waxmann contributed to this article.

edoyen@sfmediaco.com

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