SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - A protest for the homeless that took place outside San Francisco’s Ferry Building appeared to be a few hundred strong on Wednesday. The ‘Tackle Homelessness’ demonstration was planned to coincide with the city’s Super Bowl festivities.
The demonstrators descended upon Super Bowl City Wednesday afternoon with tents and messages shedding light on the issues surrounding the city's homeless population.
Homeless advocates say the city is pushing the homeless aside and subsidizing the wealthy instead of the needy.
The mostly peaceful protesters were surrounded by heavy police presence. KTVU's Debora Villalon estimated there to be about 100 police, clad in riot gear.
The demonstration started in front of the recently closed Sinbad's Pier 2 Restaurant at 4:30 p.m., according to an announcement from the organizers. Police faced off with some in the group and prevented protesters from getting close to the Super Bowl City entry gates.
Protesters carried signs saying "house keys not homelessness," and "Hey Mayor Lee, no penalty for poverty."
The group was chanting "homeless people under attack, what will we do, rise up fight back."
Organizers said they want Mayor Ed Lee to invest $5 million (roughly the estimated cost of the Super Bowl to the city) in housing as well as the creation of programs to support secure sleep, hygiene as well as access to transition and health services.
According to the Facebook event page for the protest, there is one shelter bed for every six homeless people in San Francisco. The group claims citations are on the rise for sleeping on the streets in the city.
This also comes at a time when homeless encampments and visible tents have increased on Division Street under the freeway, but have also been subject to being cleared out by city cleaning crews and police.
“The major freeway arteries, the encampments surrounding them, have been displaced. People have been getting ticketed, getting arrested, having their property confiscated,” said Jennifer Friedenbach with the Coalition on Homelessness.
One homeless veteran who was at the demonstration said he had been cited five times recently.
“At any time of day and they'll move you on, because they don't want other people— people with real money—quote unquote— to see this,” said Michael Kirby.
Mayor Ed Lee was infamously quoted as saying, "They are going to have to leave," in reference to the homeless in preparation for the Super Bowl.
On Tuesday, a homeless person was arrested for stabbing a CHP officer in the neck in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood near the Bay Bridge.
Tourists in the area noticed the large amount of cops outside and then learned homelessness was the issue at hand.
“I've lived all over the country; New York City and other places, so it's not something I've excessively noticed,” said Victoria Baldwin from Los Angeles.
Others chalked up the protest as another “San Francisco moment”.
The protest, followed by a march, did snarl traffic a bit near the Transbay Terminal, delaying eastbound commuter buses, but not for long.