Homeless activists give Broken Heart Valentines to SF officials

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 14 Feb 1999 00:04:48 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  San Francisco Examiner - Saturday, February 13, 1999


     By Gregory Lewis of the Examiner Staff

Have a heart, they say to supervisors

It was clear that the giant Valentine's Day cards homeless activists
delivered to Mayor Willie Brown and eight members of the Board of
Supervisors were not meant to express love.

"A Band-Aid doesn't mend a broken heart," read the cards presented Friday
to the mayor and the supervisors as part of a 70-person protest of city
homeless policies that advocates say are mean-spirited and rooted in
temporary, rather than permanent solutions.

The noon protest that began in the Civic Center and concluded at City Hall
came against the backdrop of an unsettling incident earlier in the day *
the beatings of three homeless people under a freeway overpass on Beale
Street between Howard and Mission streets, where they had set up an

John Arnold said the incident began early Friday morning when he and his
wife Karen were awakened to calls for help from homeless colleague Brenda
Parks. Parks, he said, was being attacked by three assailants armed with
nunchucks and steel rods, and he and his wife responded immediately.

"I made it halfway across the street when one of the guys hit me in
forehead," John Arnold said. "We got beat up pretty good. ..... My wife's
forehead and back of her head are busted open."

Arnold said two other campers identified the attackers for police, who
arrested two men, 18 and 20 years old, and a 28-year-old woman.

John Arnold suffered a broken arm in the attack in addition to the gash on
his head. Karen Arnold fractured both of her hands.

John Arnold said he believed the perpetrators "didn't like homeless, hated

"They didn't attack us for money," he said. "They didn't try to rob us. It
was a hate crime."

Upon hearing the story at Friday's protest, homeless advocate Ron Eagles
said he wished The City's civil servants were as protective of the homeless
as the Arnolds were.

"Civil servants are supposed to look out for all the people," he said as he
was about to deliver a valentine to Supervisor Amos Brown, who has come
under fire from homeless advocates for sponsoring initiatives they see as

The protesters said they organized Friday's event to say they are
heartbroken over the number of homeless people arrested during Mayor
Brown's three years in office for such so-called quality-of-life citations
as urinating in public and public drunkenness. The advocates also are upset
by the supervisors' recent move to sweep the homeless from Hallidie and
United Nations plazas.

They were particularly critical of Supervisor Brown, who authored the
legislation that put sweeps of the plazas in place. But Mayor Brown took
his licks, too.

"Like past mayors, Brown has waited until the third year of his term to
propose any solutions to homelessness," Paul Boden of the Coalition on
Homelessness. "But instead of actually solving the problem as he promised
during the election campaign, Brown, and his supervisorial and department
appointees are simply planning to sweep and jail poor people into
warehouse-style shelters.

"Criminal justice and shelter expenditures divert money from permanent
solutions and do not solve homelessness."

During the demonstration Supervisors Tom Ammiano, Sue Bierman and Leland
Yee were given real valentines, because they had voted against the police
sweeps at the plazas.

"We love you, Leland," the crowd shouted outside Leland Yee's office door.
"You're a sweetheart."

Ammiano and Bierman received similar kudos.

At the office doors of supervisors they didn't agree with, they shouted,
"You need a change of heart."

None of the supervisors was around to receive their valentines.

The protesters then went to the mayor's office. "Willie Brown, you can't
hide. Homelessness is genocide," they shouted.

But the mayor was in New York for the long holiday weekend.

Finally, Steve Kawa, the mayor's legislative liaison, came out to accept
the mayor's valentine card. "We'll be back," promised one activist. "We're
going to fill up City Hall with homeless people."


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
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