200 protest San Francisco's Super Bowl homelessness response
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[February 04, 2016]
By Curtis Skinner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As many as 200
demonstrators rallied in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday near where
Super Bowl festivities are being hosted, protesting what they say are
the city's plans to clear away homeless people to make way for tourists
The demonstrators, confronted by helmeted police, shouted, "No
penalty for poverty" and hoisted signs and tents emblazoned with
such slogans as: "Sleep. It's not a crime," as they rallied just
blocks from the so-called Super Bowl City in downtown San Francisco.
The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are scheduled to square off
in Super Bowl 50, some 50 miles (80 km) south of San Francisco at
Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday.
Shekinah Love, 32, said he has several homeless friends and has been
homeless himself before, and added that the city was giving the
issue the attention it deserves.
"People are getting kicked off the streets with nowhere to go," Love
said. "San Francisco needs a real solution to the issue of
homelessness, not criminalize it."
Mayor Ed Lee told media outlets as early as last August that
homeless people would have to leave the area ahead of the Super Bowl
A spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office said on Wednesday that the city
has planned for a long El Nino winter and have expanded its shelter
program by 1,100 beds. City officials estimate that there are around
7,000 homeless people living across San Francisco.
Nikki Millett, 25, said she was not necessarily against the Super
Bowl, but added: "What I am against is that homelessness has been a
huge problem in this city for a long time and Mayor Lee hasn't done
anything about it until (the Super Bowl)."
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Super Bowl events have been considered a likely target for
demonstrators, and authorities said they have factored that into
their security planning.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, who has been the focus of
protests since the police killing of a black man in December, told
Reuters on Wednesday that his department would work "painstakingly"
to protect demonstrators' free speech rights.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Michael
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