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Politics & Policy

Supervisor Walton gives protester middle finger in City Hall confrontation

Supervisor Shamann Walton, seen visiting a school campus on Aug. 17, 2022, apologized Wednesday for flipping off a protester in a City Hall confrontation. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Video from a protest last week over police violence shows San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton standing on the steps of City Hall and flipping his middle finger at a protester before being restrained to prevent the confrontation from escalating.

The incident was documented in an Instagram post, and occurred just hours before Walton flew to Colombia for a nearly weeklong birthday bash with his friends. That trip, which was apparently extended by flight delays, caused the postponement of a long-anticipated hearing on reparations for the Black community.

Video of last week’s confrontation shows a man with a megaphone challenging Walton for being an inauthentic champion of the Black community. The event was organized to honor the life of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who was brutally beaten to death by Memphis police. However, protesters who attended the event at City Hall challenged local leaders over their response to police killings here in San Francisco.

READ MORE: SF Supervisor Parties at Colombian Hooters, Delays Reparations Hearing

The video shows the man with a megaphone saying to Walton, “Talk about Tyre but don’t talk about all these bodies in San Francisco? You a punk, Shamann.” Walton steps forward and gestures the middle finger at the man before being pulled away by multiple people.

In a statement, Walton’s office apologized and said the supervisor’s actions were wrong while also accusing the man of harassing, stalking and threatening Walton.

“Although freedom of speech is a right, this individual’s actions are a dishonor to the memory of Tyre Nichols and extremely disrespectful to the Black Community,” the statement says. “This individual has a history of attacking Supervisor Walton, as well as other community members in San Francisco. After repeated attacks from this individual, Supervisor Walton raised his finger and flicked him off. This action from Supervisor Walton, as a result of continued harassment from this person, was wrong.

“Supervisor Walton apologizes for his actions acting [sic] and has sought out advice from Black elders who have been the targets of threats and violence in their leadership. He is deeply pained for letting his guard down and reacting in this manner and kindly asks the public to please stand up to all these recent racist comments towards the Black community.”

The account that posted the video appears to belong to Adroa Anderson, a Black Lives Matter activist who was charged in late 2020 for allegedly punching a Proud Boy in the face during a rally in San Francisco. The account posted a statement Wednesday night offering a far different account of interactions with Walton, saying that the supervisor was the one who was “hostile, undermining and aggressive” in a lone previous encounter.

Walton’s confrontation at the City Hall protest is yet another example of the supervisor losing his cool.

The former president of the Board of Supervisors also got into a confrontation last summer in which he allegedly called a sheriff’s cadet the N-word after a dispute about City Hall security protocols. Video of that encounter shows Walton growing agitated over removing his belt to go through a metal detector, but no audio of the confrontation was available from City Hall security cameras.

The cadet involved in that incident filed a complaint with the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity division, which investigates claims of discrimination and harassment. City officials did not immediately respond to The Standard’s inquiries about the status of that investigation.

Walton’s office told The Standard that the supervisor has been subjected to a constant stream of harassment and racist messages, especially in the lead-up to the reparations hearing, which was originally planned for Tuesday but postponed until next month. Walton’s office called the supervisor’s reaction to the protester “out of character.”

“He is held to a higher standard than everyone,” said Tracy Brown, a staffer in Walton’s office. “He’s treated differently. He’s not given the respect he deserves for his leadership.”

Walton fell under greater scrutiny this week after he spent the days leading up to the landmark reparations hearing partying in Colombia. In 2020, he authored a resolution that formed the committee to study the issue, and Tuesday’s hearing was eagerly anticipated after two years of meetings. 

Members of the city’s reparations committee slammed the city for delaying the hearing to discuss the 60-page plan released in December, but emails show that Walton was the person who insisted on holding the meeting in mid-March instead of earlier dates offered up for this month.

Rev. Amos Brown, who served on the committee, said he was “stunned” upon learning that the hearing would be delayed because Walton was stuck in a different country.