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San Francisco | Government & Elections

The Persecution of Ross Mirkarimi, Eliana Lopez and the Continuing Coup
by Bob English
Tuesday Oct 9th, 2012 6:27 AM
The public persecution of Ross Mirkarimi and Eliana Lopez is the latest attack in a reactionary coup. In his commitment to progressive principles/programs and marginalized, impoverished constituencies and by alarming the City's political machine and 1% financial powers - much more than for his arrogance and misdemeanor - Mirkarimi and his family are public targets, paying an extreme political and personal price. Now the question before SF Supervisors is: do they have the backbone and integrity to represent the people, respect democracy, do the right thing and vote to reinstate Mirkarimi as Sheriff?


The Persecution of Ross Mirkarimi, Eliana Lopez and the Continuing Coup

The protracted public persecution of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife Eliana Lopez is the latest coordinated attack in an ongoing reactionary resurgence and coup in San Francisco. Mirkarimi is being targeted as the only progressive elected to citywide office, pledged to continue and expand the enlightened prison reform programs of his predecessor Sheriff Hennessy and to represent marginalized, impoverished and voiceless communities. Led by the SF machine, backed by various coalitions, community "leaders," financial interests and law enforcement; and fueled by the SF Chronicle, the coup agenda has included:

* dismantling of the prior decade's progressive majority Board of Supervisors;
* selection of "moderate" Ed Lee over Hennessy as interim Mayor and the "Run Ed Run" mayoral campaign;
* public pandering and give aways to corporate interests in the name of jobs and economic development;
* take backs of public employee salary, pension and health care benefits in union contracts and Proposition C;
* proposed "stop and frisk" racial profiling;
* war on the poor, tenants and homeless: sit-lie ordinance, mass foreclosures and evictions.

As noted by independent journalist Ann Garrison and political analyst/commentator Ralph Schoenman, Ross Mirkarimi has been clear and public in his commitment to progressive principles and practices in administration of the Sheriff Department and county jail system; opposition to routine, mass imprisonment of the poor and people of color as the contemporary "Jim Crow;" defense of the rights of tenants, poor and homeless people; and refusal to rubber stamp implementation and enforcement of routine evictions of indigent tenants and mass foreclosures with fraudulent paper work. In doing so, he's obviously pissed off San Francisco's pernicious political machine and financial powers, i.e. the banks, wealthy property owners, speculators and real estate conglomerates that set and control the City's political agenda for the Democrats and Supervisors; the 1% and their professional, police, legal and media gate keepers and enforcers. For that - much more than his admitted arrogance and misdemeanor - he and his family are prime time public targets and paying an extreme political and personal price.

As narrated and portrayed in the final episode of Starz's "Boss" Season 1, the primary interest and objectives of political and economic power are continuity, stability and long term preservation of the status quo, with the occasional, necessary appearance of fresh leadership and change. The leadership and progressive changes signaled and proposed by newly elected Sheriff Mirkarimi were unacceptable and red flags to the dominate power structure and players in SF. He had to go.

However, Mirkarimi has been fully accountable for his actions, gone through the legal process, pled guilty, made a public apology and act of contrition and has been sentenced. That should be the end of it. But instead, he was suspended without even a hearing and without pay by Lee and faces removal from elected office in political circus trials before the Ethics Commission and Board of Supervisors. The family had been separated by court order, publicly exploited, humiliated and dragged through the mud daily by political hacks and Chronicle reporters, columnists and editors. The Hearst Corporation Chronicle's smear job reminds us of the rag's collaboration with the US Dept. of Justice in the criminalization and vilification of local hero Barry Bonds. Of dozens of MLB players implicated in the BALCO drug scandal, only Bonds, an outspoken African-American, was prosecuted in federal court (for perjury) on flimsy evidence, without positive test results or primary witness testimony.

As noted by Eliana herself, the Latino Democratic Club and women supporters, her expressed wishes and interests as a woman, wife, Latina and immigrant have been repeatedly ignored, distorted and shamelessly manipulated for public entertainment and political pay back. Clearly the real abuse of Eliana Lopez has been by powerful interests who have cynically invoked and manipulated domestic violence and women's issues but are indifferent to women's rights.

For perspective we should remember and note the following contradictions from recent SF political history:

1. Mayor Gavin Newsom (appointed Supervisor by Willie Brown) did not face "official misconduct" charges, suspension or any disciplinary measures following exposure of his alcoholism and affair with a staff advisor's wife.

2. George Gascón was originally recruited for SF Chief of Police as an outside reformer to clean up the SFPD but was subsequently appointed District Attorney by Newsom, potentially compromising his political independence and integrity in investigations and decisions effecting the Mirkarimi prosecution and allegations against Lee.

3. Breaking a political agreement and explicit pledge to not seek the office during his interim appointment, Lee and his backers justified his run for Mayor by promising a new era of civility and end to political strife in City Hall. Yet nothing said or done by Chris Daly and the Board's Left majority during the 2000s comes close to the public freak show and civil warfare unleashed by Lee and the machine's other puppet officials in the relentless persecution of Mirkarimi. 

4. Besides previous charges of ballot tampering and fraud in Lee's mayoral campaign, Mayor Lee himself is accused of perjury, obstruction of justice, conflict of interest, corruption and tampering with the suspension and misconduct proceeding in a) his faltering testimony before the Ethics Commission (interrupted by an apparent police staged "bomb threat" at a critical point of defense counsel questioning the veracity of Lee's testimony); b) discussion of the case with one or more Supervisors; and c) offering a job deal in exchange for Mirkarimi's resignation. Despite statements of credible witnesses, Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker and former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the District Attorney and Ethics Commission have refused to investigate the Mirkarimi defense claims or charges of official misconduct by Lee.

5. As explained by Schoenman, the historic Recycling Center in Golden Gate Park had exposed and fought the Mayor and machine's "sit-lie" campaign as harassment aimed at homeless, poor and Gays. In retaliation, the Center was targeted for closure and replacement by a "lease-land" arrangement (an action currently challenged in court).

No, the move on the Mirkarimis is just shameless, dirty politics at its worst, San Francisco style. And it's disturbing that some people and groups on the Left who should know better have joined or been co-opted to this appalling party or distanced themselves from a long time progressive ally for political cover. Apparently criminal conviction and political embarrassment aren't enough to satisfy the rapacious appetites of the financiers, law enforcement and machine honchos, Lee and his makers - they're out to ruin Ross and Eliana politically and personally. For many months the question has been whether decent people, progressives and the San Francisco electorate would continue to dumb down and stand by - or wise up, stand up and push back. Now with substantial demonstrated public support, the immediate question before the Supervisors is: do they have the backbone and integrity to represent the people, respect democracy, do the right thing and vote to reinstate Ross Mirkarimi as Sheriff?

See also:
SF Bay Guardian http://www.sfbg.com/bruce/2012/10/08/mirkarimi-vote-will-there-be-some-profiles-courage;
Fog City Journal http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/5036/women-rally-for-suspended-sheriffs-reinstatement/;
KPFA News http://www.anngarrison.com/audio/h-brown-on-the-bomb-threat-that-interrupted-mayor-ed-lees-sworn-testimony.


Bob English
Vallejo
San Francisco native, former resident and civil servant.

Ralph Schoenman - political analyst/commentator, "Taking Aim" co-producer with Mya Shone - contributed to this article.
by SF Voter, Taxpayer & Native
Tuesday Oct 9th, 2012 8:21 AM
Thank you Bob English for your call to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. The rally today for the Sheriff is at Noon in front of City Hall, Polk and McAllister, on the Civic Center Plaza side with the Board meeting to start at 2 p.m. The Board of Supervisors could have and should have just let the case sit for 30 days and Ross would have been reinstated. Instead, they decided to sing the company, capitalist class tune and have a hearing. Most of the people on this Board, if not all of them, are there to promote their career. They need to know exactly who campaigns in this town, so your presence, or at the least, your phone calls are needed to the Board of Supervisors now. You can get more information at
http://www.friendsofross.com/what-you-can-do
The advertisement on the Bay Guardian's website says today's noon rally at City Hall on the Polk Street Side is supported by the National Lawyers Guild, the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, etc. Democratic Club, SF Labor Council, SEIU 1021, Latino Democratic Club and the gay newspaper, Bay Area Reporter (BAR).

You can watch the hearing starting at 2 p.m. on San Francisco Cable Channel 26 and online at:
http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=6