SF Dem Party urges city to declare hate 'public health crisis'

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday May 23, 2024
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San Francisco Democratic Central Committee member Bilal Mahmood authored a resolution asking the city to use public health funds to study the effects of hate crimes. Photo: Courtesy Bilal Mahmood
San Francisco Democratic Central Committee member Bilal Mahmood authored a resolution asking the city to use public health funds to study the effects of hate crimes. Photo: Courtesy Bilal Mahmood

The San Francisco Democratic Party is calling on the city to find funds in its public health budget to support victim services and research best practices for hate crime prevention.

The local party's resolution is one of several efforts to bring awareness to the need to combat hate and prejudice, on both local and state levels — including the release of data from a state hotline where people can report hate crimes.

The reason public health funds should be used, said Bilal Mahmood, a straight ally who's an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, is because racism and "hate incidents" constitute a "public health crisis adversely impacting the health, mental health, and wellbeing of people of color and marginalized communities," in the words of the resolution that he authored.

The resolution passed unanimously at the May 22 meeting of the DCCC, or D-triple-C, as it's known.

As the Bay Area Reporter reported in March, the DCCC — made up of members elected by rank-and-file Democrats as well as other elected officials in the county — garnered national headlines with the near-sweep of a more moderate slate that broadly criticized the previous committee members for progressive stances and for opposing the 2022 recall of then-district attorney Chesa Boudin. The DCCC makes political endorsements on behalf of the Democratic Party.

The B.A.R. asked Mahmood if public funding is realistic considering the city's budget woes — Mayor London Breed last December asked city departments for 10% cuts across the board. A deficit of about $800 million is expected over the next two fiscal years, and Breed has said it could reach $1 billion by Fiscal Year 2028. Breed has until the end of next week to submit to the Board of Supervisors her budget proposal for this year.

"The budget is $15 billion," Mahmood said. "This would just be millions. Our hope is they see this as a different epidemic. We can act on both fentanyl and hate crimes."

Breed's office did not return a request for comment for this report as of press time. Neither did the office of District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston — a progressive who Mahmood is challenging in the November elections. District 5 includes the Haight-Ashbury and Tenderloin neighborhoods.

Mahmood said that the city needs to study the impact of both hate crimes and hate incidents.

The San Francisco DA's office has a Victim Services division that provides support to crime victims and their families, according to its website. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has also awarded a grant to Community United Against Violence, or CUAV, which provides services to the LGBTQ community.

The DCCC resolution states public health funds are needed to study the disproportionate impact of hate crimes and incidents on vulnerable populations. Mahmood said it's appropriate to do this — rather than just relying on the current funding for victim's services after a crime is committed — because hate incidents aren't necessarily crimes and because the DCCC sees hate crimes as an "epidemic" in addition to a criminal matter.

The resolution comes just one day after a Black San Francisco dog walker, Terry Williams, saw his Grove Street house damaged by fire weeks after he reported receiving racist threats and packages. His parents were upstairs and had to be rescued by the San Francisco Fire Department, according to NBC News.

Hotline data paints hate incidents picture

The City and County of San Francisco has not seen the precipitous rise of all reported hate crimes since 2020 that has afflicted other parts of the state and nation, according to FBI statistics, the B.A.R. previously reported, though statewide hate crimes were up in 2022 — 20.2% over 2021 numbers.

Hate crime incidents against gay men, lesbians, and trans people all rose statewide that year. The most targeted groups in that report were Black individuals, gay men, and Jewish people.

But while hate crimes are tracked by city, state, and federal law enforcement, hate incidents aren't. Mahmood said that since 2020, the Black, Asian, and queer and transgender communities have reported increasing hate incidents to service organizations, and with the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East, antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents are rising, too, Mahmood said.

The DCCC's resolution comes just after CA vs Hate revealed data from its new hotline's first year of operation at a Sacramento news conference May 20. Data released by the California Civil Rights Department showed 1,020 reports. Of 560 reports that were reviewed, 35% claimed a bias motivation based on race or ethnicity, 15% based on gender identity, and 11% based on sexual orientation. Of the race or ethnicity-based reports, a plurality was based on anti-Black bias, at 27%, followed by anti-Latino bias, at 15%, and then anti-Asian bias, at 14%.

"Advancing the civil rights of all Californians and combating hate in our communities remains a top priority. In California, our diversity is our strength," state Attorney General Rob Bonta stated in response to the release of the data. "The CA vs Hate initiative is an important effort to combat hate and extremism in our communities. DOJ remains committed to new and ongoing efforts to combat hate and bias."

Bamby Salcedo, a trans woman who is president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition and vice chair for the California Commission on the State of Hate, stated her organization "is grateful" of its partnership with the statewide initiative.

"This platform has allowed many members of our community to be able to report hate crimes and hate incidents in a way that is supportive and able to connect people to very much needed resources," Salcedo stated. "CA vs Hate is a platform for all people to be able to see that there is an intentional way to eradicate hate in our beautiful state, because hate is not welcome in our state."

Out DCCC members co-sponsor resolution

The DCCC resolution was co-sponsored by two gay men who also serve on the committee — Joe Sangirardi and Michael Nguyen.

Sangirardi, who's running for the District 9 (San Francisco) BART board seat in November, told the B.A.R. that "the LGBTQ community, and especially young queer folks, are disproportionately targets of hate speech and physical violence." It causes health care issues that need to be addressed, he argued.

"We carry these mental and physical scars throughout your lives, so recognizing and addressing hate at its source — ignorance and intolerance — is a form of preventative health care," Sangirardi stated. "This resolution takes a stand on two different visions for the future — one led by people who are scared of change and are trying to drag us back to the past, and then there are those of us who embrace change. We're fighting for a better future rooted in love and acceptance."

Nguyen agreed, stating everyone has "a responsibility to act in ways that focuses on healing from the trauma of these attacks." The data shows that mental health "is an important part" of the public health crisis caused by hate incidents, he added.

"We need to invest resources to support victims of hate crimes as well as folks reporting bias incidents," Nguyen stated. "By viewing this issue outside of the public safety realm and as a public health issue, I am hopeful that more agencies will have the funding they need to support and center these marginalized communities."

The resolution was also co-sponsored by DCCC member Parag Gupta.

"I am excited to co-sponsor this resolution because we recognize the detrimental health effects of racism," Gupta stated to the B.A.R. "Let's meet survivors of racism where they are and provide seamless language access, when necessary, so they feel seen and heard. Also, only by measuring and treating health effects of racism can we be more preventative."

The resolution itself asks for research of the health effects of hate incidents, as well as funding for victims services for hate crime victims.

Nancy Tung, a prosecutor with the DA's office and straight ally who is the chair of the DCCC, thanked Mahmood for bringing the resolution forward at the committee's meeting.

"I think it's a very important and apt way to look at the effect of hate crimes and hate incidents that occur, and looking at the people who are sitting here with us on this stage, I bet that every single one of us has experienced something along those lines during our lifetime," Tung stated, according to a news release. "Trauma does not exist in a vacuum and it maybe dulls over time but never fully goes away."

The B.A.R. asked Mahmood if he was aware of the CA vs Hate initiative. As the B.A.R. reported, several community organizations, including CUAV, have received funds through this state anti-hate initiative. The B.A.R. itself received an anti-hate grant from the California State Library.

Mahmood said that he had, and warned that "CA vs Hate is a three-year plan, so it could expire. It may be gutted," which is why he felt it was important for the local Democratic Party itself to take a stand in union with members of the state Legislature who are also Democrats.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman spearheaded the effort last year to have United Against Hate week — which was held in November but this year will be observed September 21-27 — recognized officially by the city. The resolution passed the Board of Supervisors unanimously and went into effect when it was returned unsigned by Breed.

Mandelman did not return a request for comment for this report.

Update, 5/23/23:Gupta's quote was initially incorrectly attributed to DCCC member Cedric Akbar.

The CA vs Hate hotline is 833-866-4283 and operates from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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