While homelessness has turned into an epidemic across the United States, the dilemma is even worse in cities like San Francisco where sky-high rents have forced a large number of people to live on the streets.
Therefore, when the Super Bowl festivities brought thousands of football enthusiasts to the city and the government decided to clear away homeless people to make way for tourists, scores of the dispossessed took it upon themselves to bring attention to their plight.
To protest the NFL hoopla and the amount of the funds city is spending on the game-related festivities, at least 200 protesters rallied in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday. The demonstrators, confronted by helmeted police, shouted slogans such as “No penalty for poverty” and hoisted placards reading “Sleep. It's not a crime.”
“You can spend $5 million on a big half time party. You can spend $5 million on a big show. But you can’t feed homeless people?” a protester named Joshua Shrader shouted through a megaphone, wearing a T-shirt that read “Tackle Homelessness.”
Although the demonstration was peaceful, the face-off between the activists and the police prevented a large number of people from entering the so-called Super Bowl city. One of the protesters told Reuters that she isn’t against the game that the entire nation religiously awaits all year.
“What I am against is that homelessness has been a huge problem in this city for a long time and Mayor [Ed] Lee hasn't done anything about it until (the Super Bowl),” explained 25-year-old Nikki Millett.
The group behind the Tackle Homelessness protests demand that Mayor Lee spend $5 million of taxpayer money, which is roughly how much Super Bowl is costing the city, on housing programs, increased police presence and improved transit services.
“People are getting kicked off the streets with nowhere to go,” said activist Shekinah Love. “San Francisco needs a real solution to the issue of homelessness, not criminalize it.”
It looks like city’s plan to keep the homeless out of the tourists’ sight might not work out so well since more protests are planned for the week leading up to the Super Bowl.