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Politics & Policy

‘Supergirl of San Francisco’ paid thousands after Urban Alchemy incident

Transgender activist Supergirl of San Francisco—aka Shawn Strickland—has won a $10,000 settlement from the city after a 2019 altercation with Urban Alchemy in U.N. Plaza. | Courtesy Shawn Strickland

A transgender activist known as the Supergirl of San Francisco has been awarded $10,000 after a lawsuit against the City of San Francisco.

The lawsuit said the Supergirl activist, whose name is Shawn Strickland, was praying in U.N. Plaza when she was asked to leave the area by Urban Alchemy ambassadors and San Francisco police officers in 2019.

The suit alleges that Strickland’s civil rights were violated in the act of removing her from a public place. The city, Urban Alchemy and its former fiscal sponsor have denied any wrongdoing.

Urban Alchemy is a nonprofit organization that provides security services to the most troubled parts of San Francisco around the Tenderloin neighborhood.

The Supergirl of San Francisco has changed city policy before. | Courtesy Shawn Strickland

The city has also agreed to formally adopt a policy change and force better training for Urban Alchemy staff on their interaction with members of the public exercising constitutional rights of freedom of speech, assembly and the practice of religion in public places. The policy change will be discussed and likely approved at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

“I believe in hope, help and compassion for all,” Strickland said in a press release. “Everyone should have the right to peacefully assemble in public parks, whether to pray, meditate, speak, sing, or any other activity protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Strickland has changed city policy before, after a 2017 protest incident and subsequent lawsuit saw the city drop a rule that required individuals and small groups to get permits for protest on the steps of City Hall.

“These reforms are a good first step toward ensuring that when private organizations contract with the government to engage with members of the public, their employees are adequately trained to respect important constitutional rights,” said Donald Wagda, Strickland’s attorney. “Nobody peacefully present in areas open to the public should be asked to leave without lawful cause, especially when they are exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Transgender activist Supergirl of San Francisco—aka Shawn Strickland—has won a $10,000 settlement from the city. | Courtesy Shawn Strickland

Strickland has also been awarded a confidential settlement from Urban Alchemy’s former primary funder.

“We believe this settlement and the provisions in the amended grant agreement are an appropriate resolution given the inherent costs of continued litigation,” said Jen Kwart, spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office.

The San Francisco Police Department and Urban Alchemy have been contacted for comment.

Joe Burn can be reached at