San Francisco mayor forced to abandon public safety meeting after protester throws brick

san francisco mayor forced to abandon public safety meeting after protester throws brick

A protester is restrained by police at UN Plaza in San Francisco on Tuesday – Eric Risberg/AP

The mayor of San Francisco was forced to abandon a press conference held in a square known for open-air drug taking after the event descended into chaos.

London Breed, a Democrat, appeared at United Nations Plaza on Tuesday alongside Aaron Peskin, president of San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the city’s legislative body.

The pair condemned the city for tolerating “illegal, out-of-control behaviour for far too long” on a podium erected in the square.

Mr Peskin decided to hold the press-conference there specifically to highlight the impact of drugs on San Francisco’s public spaces.

But protesters interrupted the event with boos and heckles, forcing it to be abandoned after just 11 minutes.

san francisco mayor forced to abandon public safety meeting after protester throws brick

London Breed, San Francisco mayor – Yalonda M. James/San Francisco Chronicle

At one point, a woman hurled a brick towards the podium, which reportedly hit a young bystander.

The San Francisco Police Department quickly arrested a suspect named Elysia Katet, 26, of San Francisco.

Ms Breed continued her speech from inside City Hall.

“Compassion is killing people,” she said. “We have to change what is happening on the streets. It’s too easy getting drugs, they are dying under our watch, we have to do better.”

Mr Peksin said that the aborted press conference was “another tragic example of how we are losing control of our public spaces”.

He added: “If we can’t guarantee everyone’s safety when the Mayor and her security team are present — we have lost control of our public realm. We must continue to demand change.”

san francisco mayor forced to abandon public safety meeting after protester throws brick

The audience outside UN Plaza in San Francisco on Tuesday – Yalonda M. James/San Francisco Chronicle

He has disagreed with Ms Breed over how best to handle the crisis, demanding more involvement of the police to shut down all open-air drugs sites in 90 days.

Ms Breed, who declared it was “time for a change”, said the outdoor hearing was not “the right forum” to answer Mr Peskin’s questions.

The meeting, estimated to cost about $4,000 (£3,250), was described by attendees as “a waste of resources”.

San Francisco has been blighted by surging levels of drug deaths and homelessness, with many overdoses linked to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid fifty times stronger than heroin.

City spending on homelessness has risen from $200m in 2016 to $680m this year.

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