The backlash against the crime crackdown in San Francisco

It’s game on and the stakes are nothing short of law and order in the city.

The mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, recently announced a crackdown on crime, coupled with additional assistance for drug users and the mentally ill in the city’s notorious Tenderloin neighborhood.

The pushback from her fellow progressive Democrats was swift. A group of them held a press conference yesterday and voiced opposition to Mayor Breed’s state of emergency declared in the Tenderloin. Breed needs the support of a majority of the city council to extend the emergency beyond Thursday.

Most prominent in opposition to the mayor’s efforts is the city’s district attorney, Chesa Boudin. He wrote an opinion piece published today on the local San Francisco website SFGate headlined, “We’re blaming the wrong things for San Francisco retail theft.” He writes,

The all-too-common response to these crimes has been calls for more policing and attacks on progressive reforms, but these knee-jerk reactions are short-sighted. Achieving long-lasting public safety means we must think about these crimes differently. 

By “differently” he means to attack “root causes” such as poverty and racism. Only by completely eliminating poverty can we make any progress on crime.

To Boudin, all of this makes sense. His parents were members of the Weather Underground, a 1970s left-wing domestic terrorist organization. His father was released from prison only last month, after serving 40 years of a 75-year sentence for three counts of murder in a botched armed robbery. His mother served 20 years for the same crime.

With both parents in prison, Boudin was raised by adoptive parents Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorn. They were also Weather Underground members, but criminal charges against them were dropped on a technicality.

Boudin, then a public defender, was elected District Attorney in November 2019, replacing George Gascon. As crime has exploded under his watch, Boudin is now the subject of a recall election scheduled for June 2022.

His predecessor, George Gascon, started his career as a cop in the Los Angeles Police Department. He would work his way up to San Francisco chief of police and then replace now-Vice President Kamala Harris as the city’s district attorney. After two terms as chief prosecutor, Gascon was apparently not soft enough or progressive enough for the City by the Bay, so he returned to the City of Angels, getting elected as Los Angeles County District Attorney, also in November 2019.

As with Boudin (January 2020, San Francisco), one of Gascon’s first acts in office (June 2020, in Los Angeles) was to eliminate the use of cash bail for a whole range of offenses.

Gascon’s backstory is every bit as interesting as Boudin’s. Born in pre-revolutionary Cuba, an adolescent Gascon fled the Castro regime with his family in 1967. As an adult, Gascon appears to have adopted the same politics that drove his family to move to America.

Gascon is also the subject of recall efforts. We’ll see how they fare.