San Francisco Mayor apologizes after saying migrants were to blame for drug dealing in the city

San Francisco Mayor London Breed was forced to apologize Thursday after making comments about Honduran migrants being the cause of the city’s drug problem.

In a statement issued Thursday, Breed walked back the words she used to describe members of the Honduran community during a recent interview.

The mayor sat down on KQED’s Political Breakdown on October 5 and blamed the Latin American group for a major portion of the drug dealing happening in the city but claimed that her assessment wasn’t racial profiling.

‘There are unfortunately a lot of people who come from a particular country — come from Honduras — and a lot of the people who are dealing drugs happen to be of that ethnicity,’ Breed said.

The mayor may have even predicted backlash to come, saying at the time that she didn’t believe her comments were racially motivated at all.

‘It’s nothing “racial profile” about this,’ Breed said. ‘We all know it. It’s the reality, it’s what you see, it’s what’s out there.’

‘It’s not about racial profiling, it just so happens that this is the case just like when you look at disparities around things that are happening, this is just the reality.’

San Francisco Mayor London Breed was forced to apologize after she made comments about how the Honduran migrants and drug dealing in the Bay Area city

Breed said that Honduran migrants are responsible for a major portion of the drug trade and sale that is going on in the city

During an interview with KQED, the mayor said that her statements have nothing to do with racial profiling, but rather that the comments simply reflect ‘the reality’ of the situation

The mayor was discussing the ongoing drug and homeless crisis in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. 

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the city could record roughly 20,000 people who have experienced homelessness throughout the year in 2022. 

Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated that the drug problem in the Bay Area has just gotten worse over time.  

In the Bay Area, ‘an annual average 782,000 persons aged 12 or older used any illicit drug in the past year,’ the organization noted. ‘This represents 21.9 percent’ of area’s population, ‘which is higher than the rates for the State of California.’ 

The mayor’s comments come just weeks after she signaled a U-turn in her approach to the city’s rampant drug taking.

Previously, Breed’s ‘soft touch’ policies included open-air drug markets where people could shoot up ‘without anyone going to jail.’

The policy has been called a disaster as San Francisco has seen a surge in open-air drugtaking, with nearly 1,700 fatal overdoses since the start of 2020.

A homeless woman was seen smoking crack with two others in the Tenderloin in October 

In a press conference earlier this month, Police Chief William Scott and Breed-appointees District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, and District Six Supervisor Matt Dorsey, discussed the ongoing issue and plans to solve it.

Breed appointed Jenkins after the previous district attorney, Chesa Boudin, was recalled in June for ‘not being tough enough on drug dealers’, and she appointed former police spokesperson Dorsey in May.

The mayor’s apology touched on ‘conversations’ she’s had with the Latino community in the Bay Area and how the talks led her to change her tune. 

‘Over the last few days, I have had conversations with several leaders from our Latino community about comments I made during a recent conversation about drug dealing in the Tenderloin,’ Breed wrote in an apology this week. 

She continued, stating in a lengthy note that she ‘has a moral obligation’ to stop the drug dealing in San Francisco and that she believed she was stating nothing more than a fact.

Breed’s full apology for the Honduran comments can be read below:  

‘Over the last few days, I have had conversations with several leaders from our Latino community about comments I made during a recent conversation about drug dealing in the Tenderloin.

‘I want to apologize to the Latino community for what I said and how I said it. In trying to explain what is happening in the Tenderloin, I failed to accurately and comprehensively discuss what is an incredibly complex situation in our City and in Central America.

‘We do have significant challenges with drug dealing in the Tenderloin, and those challenges are impacting families that live there, including immigrant Latino families and residents who are living in fear. As a proud Sanctuary City, we have an obligation to provide a safe space for our immigrant families to live and thrive. That includes ending open-air drug markets and hold drug dealers, regardless of ethnicity, accountable.

‘We have helped to create and grow our own problem in the last couple of years through the City’s inability to effectively prosecute the crime of drug dealing in our City. As Mayor, I have a moral obligation to stop the open-air drug dealing that terrorizes our families and also encourages criminal gangs from other countries to coerce young men to come sell drugs in our streets. I am working with the District Attorney and our Police Department to do just that. I believe there needs to be accountability for those selling drugs on our streets, which includes people of all races, ethnicities, and genders. But we are also a City that believes in second chances and giving people opportunities, which is why we are helping CARECEN in opening a service center for Central American refugees across from UN Plaza.

‘As I said, these are complex problems, and I want to again thank those from the Latino community who have reached out to discuss this issue with me. We are stronger when we listen to each other and work together to move this City forward.’

In her apology, issued earlier this week, Breed said that she spoke with the Latino community who showed her the error in her statements

The San Francisco mayor said that she ‘failed’ to accurately discuss the surrounding details of the drug-dealing issue in the city

During the interview with KQED, Breed railed against advocates looking to bring more migrants into the sanctuary city, stating that she is more focused on innocent kids and families impacted by the drug and fentanyl problem in San Francisco

 During her October 5 interview, Breed also expressed anger and frustration over advocates pushing to bring more migrants into the sanctuary city when San Francisco is struggling to contain the issue as it stands. 

‘We have people advocating for folks who are selling fentanyl that’s killing people, but what about the kid that got a hold of some fentanyl by accident? And died what about the families? What about the people who live there?’   

‘For me, we we can’t just, you know, throw our hands up and say “people have rights.” I am happy to give anybody an opportunity that wants to do something that doesn’t consist of breaking the law. I’m happy to figure out ways in which we can make those kinds of connections.’  

‘We’ve tried it’s been very, very difficult,’ Breed stated before the interviewer changed the topic to the uptick in drug arrests. 

The Los Angeles Times spoke with Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, the executive director of San Francisco’s Central American Resource Center of Northern California, who condemned Breed’s comments about Hondurans.

Dugan-Cuadra also pointed to the recent racist comments made by several members of the Los Angeles City Council about Jewish people, Oaxacans, and the young Black son of a colleague.

‘The comments in L.A. hurt people in the Bay Area, also,’ said Dugan-Cuadra. ‘And then to have this thing resurface with the mayor, it kind of added insult to injury with how our community is feeling in California overall.’ 

The executive director was among the group of Latinos who spoke with Breed following her comments about the Honduran migrants, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Homeless drug addicts smoke fentanyl on the street near San Francisco’s City Hall

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A homeless drug addict shows bruises and scars on his swollen legs from drug use in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco

Earlier in the interview, the mayor mentioned discussions she had had with those impacted by the drug and homeless crisis.

‘I had met with all these families who, many were immigrant families, who were telling me stories and in tears, through an interpreter telling me these stories about their encounters which consisted of violence,’ Breed told the interviewers.

The woman described the issues like ‘nothing we’ve ever experienced,’ and even touched on a recent incident where a mother was knocked unconscious in front of her young child. 

‘Why is this okay? Why do people who deal drugs have more rights than people who try to get up and go to work every day and take their children to school,’ Breed said.

A homeless drug addict holds pieces of fentanyl near City Hall in in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco

A homeless man injects fentanyl into his arm in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco

A homeless drug addict injects fentanyl into his arm near City Hall in early October

Homeless drug addicts take over a city bus stop in front of the Asian Art Museum as people who are waiting for the bus wait in the background in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco

In their early October press conference, the San Francisco officials discussed the uptick in drug seizures in the Tenderloin neighborhood, and drug arrests and felony narcotics charges across the city in the three months since Jenkins took charge.

During the conference, Breed touched on her own personal issues with the city’s drug problem. 

Breed’s younger sister died at just 25 from an overdose.  

In December 2021, the mayor promised a crackdown on the ‘bulls*** destroying the city.’

London Breed’s tragic younger sister 

London Breed’s younger sister died of a drug overdose in San Francisco in 2006. 

The tragedy happened the day before she turned 26.

‘I lost a sister to a drug overdose. No, it was not fentanyl, but I did lose a sister in this city,’ an emotional Breed said.

‘She was my younger sister.’

Her brother is also serving a 44-year prison sentence for manslaughter and armed robbery in 2000. 

But the intervening ten months have seen policies brought in which have included trialing the infamous taxpayer-funded ‘open-air drug markets’, which were shuttered in June.

Other soft-touch policies have included electronically-tagging users and having police officers track them down and confiscate their drugs if they wander into known drug-dealing areas.

When she was asked what would be different under the new policies compared to last December, Breed pointed to an increase in enforcement, including boosting the police budget and hiring a further 200 officers.

She also said that the city has expanded the number of treatment beds by hundreds on top of the 2,200 already available, and highlighted expanded alternative response teams and safety ambassadors.

The mayor and law enforcement also promised to come down harder on not just drug dealers but also drug users who refuse to accept public services to help them. The criminal justice system will also provide treatment options, they added.

‘We need to firmly establish what is acceptable conduct on our streets and in our public spaces,’ Breed said.

‘San Francisco has to draw a firm line at behaviors that harm, that injure and cost neighborhoods peace of mind, everyday safety and quality of life.’

The city must be more aggressive with enforcement against drug dealing and violence, she said.

‘Selling drugs is not legal,’ she continued. ‘Using drugs out in the open is completely unacceptable. So, yes, public health is a part of this enforcement effort, but we have to be moving together in the same direction.’

A homeless man injects fentanyl into his friend’s armpit, due to a lack of usable veins, as people walk by near City Hall

The police chief showed that arrests for drug sales and possession increased 72 per cent from July to September compared with the same period last, with a total of 266 compared with 163. In Tenderloin the seizure rate more than doubled.

The new DA has a similar charging rate to Boudin, at 62 per cent, but she said the difference has been that has charged 85 per cent of felony felony narcotics cases, nearly double the rate under Boudin.

Jenkins also pulled back more than 30 plea offers for alleged fentanyl dealers under Boudin and she has also introduced the possibility of murder charges for dealers who sell drugs that result in lethal overdoses.

Dealers could selling near schools would also face harsher punishment.

Overall, the promise of a firmer hand and more carrot than stick is likely to be welcome news to San Franciscans who are fed up with crime and harassment.

But critics such as Public Defender Mano Raju have accused Jenkins and Breed of returning to the failed ‘war on drugs’, which did not reduce overdose deaths.

Raju said in a statement that the ‘heavy focus on relying on police and prosecutions to arrest and cage our way out of a public health crisis remains in direct conflict with decades of social and scientific data which indicates otherwise.’

Drug-related incidents have been rampant in San Francisco in recent years, save for a predictable dip during the Coronavirus pandemic, with much of it blamed on old DA Chesa Boudin, who was recalled in June. The spike in July 2022 has been attributed to a federal grant the police department got to tackle drug crime in the Tenderloin neighborhood

Scott said that officers would still take a ‘harm reduction’ approach first with users. But he said that ‘we can’t just arrest dealers and then leave the people who are buying drugs alone to do as they please and think this is going to get better.’

‘That doesn’t mean that people who are addicted get a free pass,’ he said. ‘Our job is to take away all of the excuses about why they can’t and won’t seek help, and then when they don’t, that’s when enforcement comes into play.’

Civil rights attorney Joe Alioto Veronese, one of Jenkin’s opponents in the upcoming election, called the press conference a political stunt.

Veronese told The San Francisco Chronicle the mayor ‘paraded her two candidates’ right before ballots are sent out ‘on an issue that is very important to San Francisco and that she’s frankly failing San Francisco on.’

The infiltration of fentanyl to the US narcotics market in the mid-to-late 2010s saw a spike in accidental drug overdose deaths.

The opioid, which is manufactured synthetically and added to other drugs, can be 50 times stronger than heroin. Just 2mg can be deadly.

Jacky

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