SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors talked for hours Tuesday about whether to approve or reject Mayor London Breed’s nightly curfew issued Sunday to help curb looting and vandalism in the city and larger Bay Area in recent days.
Ultimately, they took no action besides continuing the item for further discussion at another meeting planned for 2 p.m. Thursday. Since the board needs to approve the mayor’s order within seven days under city law or it will expire, if the supervisors end up taking no action this week then the order will expire early this coming Sunday.
The supervisors, the city’s police chief and other city officials had lengthy discussions Tuesday about the positives and negatives of the nightly 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, a response to violence and property damage that has often followed demonstrations over the weekend about the death of unarmed black man George Floyd under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day last week.
The meeting was held remotely via video conference because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that prompted large-scale shelter-in-place orders in March to try to limit the virus’ spread.
Police Chief Bill Scott praised the mayor’s decision to issue a curfew Sunday and said it helped police limit looting and vandalism compared to the previous night.
“What it allows us to do is get out in front of it and be more proactive,” Scott said.
Some supervisors questioned why the wording of the curfew had it continuing indefinitely, while other cities and counties in the Bay Area have an expiration date in the coming week or have already lifted a curfew order from this weekend, with one citing the city of Santa Clara as an example.
“I don’t feel like I want to sign a blank check,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said.
“It’s frankly an extraordinary thing in our First Amendment-based society to do this,” Peskin said. “This can’t go on for very long.”
Scott noted that the majority of the looting has taken place after dark, and said if San Francisco doesn’t have a curfew while other nearby counties do, that will likely add to crowds coming to San Francisco. Other jurisdictions have curfews stretching as far as next Monday.
“Right now we are still in the thick of things,” he said.
The chief said the Police Department knows about another demonstration in San Francisco on Wednesday that “may be volatile.”
Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, whose husband is a former San Francisco police officer, was among those who said they would trust the chief’s decisions.
“He is saying I need this tool to keep San Franciscans safe and to keep our first responders safe too,” Fewer said.
Many supervisors at the meeting mentioned that the civil liberties questions raised by the curfews echo a lot of the same questions about the COVID-19 shelter orders.
The majority of the people speaking in the public comment portion of the board meeting opposed letting the curfews continue to the weekend or longer, saying police have used it as an excuse to cause needless confrontations.
“Providing police with more authority … is the exact problem that got us into this,” one commenter said.
Others asked who was going to help business owners affected by the vandalism and said they supported the curfew, while others opposed it by saying many other businesses would be affected by being forced to shut down by 8 p.m.
Sophia Kittler, the mayor’s liaison to the Board of Supervisors, said Breed “takes very seriously the balance between civil liberties and public safety.”
Kittler discussed options that the board could take among opposing the mayor’s order, approving it and letting it expire.
Board president Norman Yee ultimately proposed a motion to continue the discussion to a meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, a motion that passed narrowly with a 6-5 vote.
Yee, Fewer, Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, Gordon Mar and Catherine Stefani voted yes, with Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, Dean Preston, Ahsha Safai and Shamann Walton voting no.