Right-wing media loving Castro merchants' protest letter to SF

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Friday September 2, 2022
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Several members of the Castro Merchants Association seem amused that publicity around the group's recent letter to city officials demanding changes has gotten the attention of right-wing news outlets. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Several members of the Castro Merchants Association seem amused that publicity around the group's recent letter to city officials demanding changes has gotten the attention of right-wing news outlets. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Right-wing media is having a field day with the news that members of the Castro Merchants Association are threatening civil disobedience if the leaders of San Francisco don't step in and take concrete actions to help groups like theirs deal with the onslaught of encampments and now-routine petty crimes committed by a core group of unhoused individuals, many of whom apparently struggle with mental health issues.

At Thursday's meeting of the merchants group, Daniel Bergerac, one of the partners at Mudpuppy's, the dog grooming shop on Castro Street and a past president of the merchants' group, mentioned that he'd been seeing reports on Fox News about the CMA's threats to withhold fees or taxes if the city didn't take concrete actions to clear up the problems.

Such conservative media outlets have often highlighted the idea that San Francisco is falling apart, whether it be video footage of unhoused people sleeping in tents or on the streets or open-air drug use. Toss in a threatened tax revolt, and outlets like Fox News and the New York Post are in overdrive.

In August, the CMA wrote a letter decrying the increasingly difficult circumstances under which small businesses in the Castro find themselves struggling, to various city officials including Mayor London Breed, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported. In the letter, the group demanded that 35 beds in the city's unhoused system be designated for unhoused people in the Castro as well as offered other suggestions.

While not stated in the letter itself, CMA Co-President Dave Karraker said the group was considering withholding the fees, and possibly taxes, they pay to the city unless things improve. That statement, which he made to multiple local outlets, including the B.A.R., led to much coverage of the issue.

Two city officials responded to the letter and outlined the numerous actions the city and DPH have taken, or are undertaking, to address the issues discussed in CMA's letter.

"Businesses in one of San Francisco's trendiest neighborhoods are threatening to withhold tax payments unless the woke politicians remove homeless people from the area and implement a stronger police presence," reported Fox News August 31.

A Breitbart story about CMA's letter, which featured no original reporting but did quote heavily from the B.A.R., focused on one particular homeless individual, "James," who said he had come to San Francisco from Texas because "it's fucking easy" to qualify for food stamps and other benefits from the city "and it pays for him to have Amazon Prime and Netflix on his phone," the article stated.

Nothing in the story indicated James was in the Castro.

Tucker Carlson, who hosts "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Fox News, two years ago ran a five-part series — the longest segment was just over five minutes — titled "American Dystopia" that focused on the very real problems San Francisco faces but which failed to mention that those issues are not unique to the city. He did call the city "one of the prettiest" in the United States, however.

Still other sites also mentioned the Castro merchants' issues.

"If the city won't deal with the burglaries, vandalism, and both the crazy and homeless people littering the street along with human feces, the businesses are going to stop paying taxes," announced USSA News, another right-wing site.

Bergerac seemed amused by the attention but told the meeting, "It's very rare I agree with Fox News."

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro and routinely attends the merchants' monthly meetings, was a little less entertained.

That sort of attention from outlets like Fox News is an "advertisement saying progressive governance doesn't work," Mandelman said. "It gives fabulous talking points to Breitbart."

Karraker mentioned to meeting attendees that he had been getting a lot of requests for interviews. He had just turned down an interview with Carlson, in fact.

Later, a reporter mentioned that they'd found numerous stories on right-wing sites about CMA's letter to city leaders, prompting Karraker to reply, "That would explain all the emails I got from Florida this morning."

While Karraker's been fielding a lot of requests from right-wing sites for interviews, he said he refuses them. The problems CMA, and numerous other business groups and neighborhoods face, are very real and need to be dealt with, he said, but he's not eager to give them any fodder.

"I'm avoiding them," he told the B.A.R. "It's feeding into their propaganda machine and they haven't done any favors to the LGBT community."

The conversation needs "to happen in San Francisco," he said, and probably Sacramento, he added, because many of the fixes will need to come from the state government.

Still, he's amused by the attention but noted the sudden fame hadn't given him celebrity status.

"I made the New York Post and I wasn't on Page Six," Karraker quipped, referring to the tabloid's infamous gossip column.

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