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S.F. Tensions Boil Over in Drug, Street-Crime Crisis

When San Francisco Mayor London Breed took her regular monthly appearance at the city's Board of Supervisors meeting to the outdoor epicenter of the city's drug dealing and stolen goods sales, protesters quickly shouted her down in the latest example of how divided the city is over how to tackle the escalating drug crisis, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Q&A, in which one supervisor per month poses a question to the mayor, was meant to put Breed on the hot seat. But as Breed spoke at U.N. Plaza, scattered boos emanated from the crowd and the interruptions intensified. Protesters shouted “no more cops,” apparently a reference to Breed advocating for more police to address open-air drug dealing. After the crowd got rowdy and loud, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin abruptly ended the 11-minute meeting and moved it back to City Hall, where Breed gave an impassioned speech arguing that the city must hold people accountable for criminal activity on the streets, including when unhoused people struggling with substance use disorder do not accept services.

Earlier on Tuesday, Breed's emergency management department confirmed a polarizing upcoming pilot program to intervene with people using drugs who were a danger to themselves or others, which one critical supervisor said would involve arresting drug users. “I get that people have an issue with the fact that we are looking at being more aggressive with people struggling with drug addiction,” said Breed, whose sister died of a drug overdose. “I want to make sure that person doesn’t die. How do we do that? Force is going to have to be a part of it, whether people like it or not … Compassion is killing people.” The clash outside at U.N. Plaza and the heated words inside City Hall reflected the ongoing battle in San Francisco over how to respond to open-air drug dealing and a surge in fatal overdoses. Peskin, a progressive, has joined Breed and her moderates allies on the board in calling for an end to open-air drug dealing. Both Breed and Peskin have said the drug deaths ravaging the streets are a humanitarian crisis and have called for state and federal help. They agreed the issue needed more collaboration and less political division. But Peskin has expressed frustration at the way the mayor has handled the crisis. He asked the mayor Tuesday to create a sustained Emergency Operations Center with local, state, and federal law enforcement and social service agencies and direct them to “shut down all public drug dealing in open-air sites such as in and around this Plaza in the next 90 days.” Peskin said the problem was not one of resources, but coordination.


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