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Woman throws brick at SF officials after UN Plaza meeting cut short by heckling

Mayor London Breed stands before a crowd at UN Plaza
San Francisco Mayor London Breed, center, and city supervisors attend the Board of Supervisors hearing held in United Nations Plaza in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

At a rare open-air hearing at United Nations Plaza Tuesday, Mayor London Breed was expected to answer to the Board of Supervisors on the city's drug crisis. But over shouts and heckling from onlookers, Board President Aaron Peskin cut the hearing short.  

As city officials were preparing to leave, a woman threw a brick in the direction of the podium, striking a Galileo High School student who was with a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps class presenting flags for the meeting. The woman was reportedly accompanied by a man in a trenchcoat and was tackled by someone before being detained by law enforcement.

The JROTC student did not sustain any injuries from the brick, which hit her in the foot.

San Francisco Police Department confirmed that 26-year-old Elysia Katet from San Francisco has been arrested and booked into jail for child endangerment and assault with a deadly weapon.

Officials agreed to reconvene at City Hall for the remainder of the hearing. The brief hearing at U.N. Plaza involved coordination from multiple city departments and more than $4,000 in fees for media services and other logistics involved with the aborted outdoor broadcast.

READ MORE: Woman who threw brick was upset about treatment of homeless, mother says

More than a dozen people had gathered to observe the hearing, with some chanting "no more cops" and calling on the city to cut off the supply of fentanyl to San Francisco instead of arresting fentanyl users.

People hold signs in UN Plaza
Charie Pittman holds a sign in protest during a meeting held at UN Plaza in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Breed was booed briefly before launching into a fiery set of opening remarks, calling for a new approach to the crisis and alluding to stiffer consequences for those involved in the drug trade. The city is planning a pilot program that could allow for tighter enforcement of laws against open-air drug use.

"I run into people day in and day out in the Tenderloin, and they say, 'London, we would have never been allowed to get away with this stuff back in the day,'" Breed said. "And the fact is, it's time for a change."

The crowd became unruly shortly after the meeting began, with one man interrupting Peskin’s speech, yelling, “All of that sounds good. […] You have a big problem.”

After being shouted over by protesters at the beginning of the Board of Supervisors meeting at U.N. Plaza on May 23, 2023, Mayor London Breed suggested the public plaza was not the best forum for the discussion. | Courtesy SFGovTV

“We are acknowledging that problem,” Peskin replied.

Peskin attempted to ask Breed a question about whether she would support his request for heightened coordination among local and regional agencies to stamp out drug-dealing, but Breed responded that the cacophonous hearing was the wrong forum for the discussion.

After the meeting abruptly ended, a person yelled “That’s it!” and others in the crowd let off a chorus of boos.

“They didn't say anything of substance,” said Raul Gutierrez, who said he lives on the outskirts of the Tenderloin. "It was nothing. A waste of resources.” 

The crowd at a Board of Supervisors meeting in UN Plaza
Police officers restrain a woman who allegedly threw a brick in the direction of San Francisco officials at a public meeting in United Nations Plaza on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. | Courtesy Sebastian Luke

Ahead of the hearing, multiple city agencies along with Urban Alchemy staff had collectively cleaned the area and shooed away the usual denizens, rendering it unusually quiet earlier in the day as workers set up a table with a Board of Supervisors tablecloth near a federal office building.

Leading up to the chaotic hearing, as smooth jazz played over loudspeakers, several onlookers shared their thoughts about the city's fentanyl crisis.

"I've known more people who've overdosed and died from fentanyl than in the last 16 years I had been doing heroin," said Thomas Brogan as he clutched a charred scrap of foil used for smoking fentanyl.

People gathered at UN Plaza
Police clear a group gathered at 7th and Mission Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Brogan said to reduce overdose deaths more efficiently, the city should establish more methadone clinics so those who want to quit using fentanyl can do so with less risk of withdrawal symptoms.

"It's hard to get off," Brogan said. "People will leave the hospital and get high because the hospital can't help them right."

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