Union square

Nothing says holiday cheer like newly militarized Union Square in San Francisco

Notice anything different in Union Square this holiday season? It doesn’t quite put me in a festive mood.

Hard to put your finger on exactly, but I think it might have a little something to do with, say, the activist police presence in the zone. From the rise of Powell to the ice rink to the lights of the Apple Store, all four corners of the square are dominated by the presence of cars, trucks and San Francisco police officers.

I’m sure this must be a right winger’s wet dream: San Francisco – Hippie Central, USA – bombarded by heavily armed law enforcement agencies ready to violently eliminate any threat to the city’s savage capitalism.

Yet I’m a native of San Franciscan for whom the sight of cops gathering in droves has never made me feel comfortable. On the contrary, a large gathering of infantry-uniforms-with-military-grade-equipment-and-full-legal-authorization-to-shoot-my-black-ass always put me on edge.

Can’t imagine why?

If that wasn’t enough, my unease was exacerbated by something the officers weren’t wearing: On a recent visit, I noticed that almost none of them wore a mask. As someone who “fits the profile” that cops often suspect, I prefer not to worry about them shooting me or infecting me.

It’s no secret that many ‘brave’ officers in the department have turned out to be complete weeping babies in the face of vaccination warrants, but now the angry COVID-19 caterpillar has turned into the known killer moth under the name of omicron. And here’s the kicker: Omicron was first detected in the United States right here in San Francisco, so anyone officially representing that city should be the first to dress up.

How do the cops expect us to believe they care about our safety when the rejection of masks and vaccines by so many of them proves otherwise? The department got into the idea that snatching overpriced handbags is like “Domestic terrorism limit”, As the California Retailers Association calls it, they are therefore ready to react as if they were stopping a suicide bomber in the streets of Tikrit during the Iraq war.

But receiving a jab and wearing a mask? Treason!

Meanwhile, study after study has shown that the mere presence of firearms decreases security of a given event or place. Still, the hip holster is a requirement of every officer in all 50 states. Gun training is so ingrained in the police experience that when cops grab their now-standard Tasers, they often end up grabbing their handgun, which has likely factored in the death of Oscar scholarship at Fruitvale BART station and Daunte wright in Minnesota, to name a few.

It’s no wonder the owners of a restaurant in San Francisco recently asked uniformed cops to leave because staff were uncomfortable having guns in the establishment. It lasted a few days before public pressure forced homeowners to back down. To hell with private companies that set policy in their own establishments; if you don’t blindly accept the presence of the country’s most legal open-carriers, you are ashamed to come!

As someone who hasn’t eaten inside a restaurant since maybe February 2020, I have to say that the sight of someone with a gun hemmed in and breathing in the air would have put me on, too. uncomfortable. And, no, a badge wouldn’t have made it better.

What annoys me even more is the fact that, at the insistence of the Mayor of London Breed, the cops bombed Union Square in reaction to what happened at Nordstrom, Walgreens and Louis Vuitton – all of them conglomerates that can write off their reported lost inventory while barely affecting their bottom line. (Walgreens claims that a recent theft is the reason they are closing locations in town, while the simplest investigation has shown that this justification to be questionable at best.) Because of these thefts, which were indeed dramatic. in their magnitude, Union Square is now closed to traffic which has no flashing lights or sirens.

Certainly, I like to close the city streets to cars, as it makes them safer for walkers and cyclists. But it’s a shame that it must have happened that way. Race and the police department have this reaction only to incidents at large companies, not to traffic fatalities. Meanwhile, officers were sitting on their lazy buttocks when the Bay Area Safe Alternative dispensary was broken into.

Somehow, the video showing this side of the department didn’t go so viral. Do you fancy this?

As booted cops strolled through the square, police in four towns on the peninsula began test a pilot program in which mental health professionals accompany cops who answer 911 calls. The goal is to have these trained professionals on the scene to defuse a situation before someone is injured, let alone killed. It’s an empathetic solution to a problem that has been going on for some time, not a recent wave.

San Francisco has been talking about a similar approach for years. But notice how quickly discussions of this idea are sidelined and we come back to “just send more armed cops”.

I will probably not be going near Union Square in the next few weeks; I prefer to support independent shops, anyway. If I do, it will be to see performances at a local venue. But I certainly won’t be shopping for the holidays when so many armed, unmasked cops can approach me.

Charles Lewis III is a San Francisco-born journalist, theater artist, and art critic. You can find questionable evidence of this on the idiot of the man who thinks.