By Citlalli Florez and Chris Lee
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco community and youth advocacy organizations gathered in front of San Francisco City Hall late last week to protest against the San Francisco Mayor’s latest budget proposal.
At the end of the rally, cardboard piggy banks were smashed, representing the mayor’s budget. The participants reclaimed the paper coins inside the piggy banks to portray a reclaiming of funds for the community and youth programs.
Speakers at the event included Justice for Banko Brown Coalition, Young Women’s Freedom Center, 5elements, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth and Causa Justa Just Cause.
Mayor London Breed’s recently released budget proposal would cut funding for public services and give a $62 million increase to the San Francisco Police Department and a $5 million increase to the District Attorney’s Office, according to a statement by Coleman Advocates.
Community members have objected to giving more money to the office of the district attorney, who has allegedly shown to not hold law enforcement accountable, and cited multiple misconduct cases where District Attorney Jenkins has not brought charges against law enforcement or has dropped the charges altogether.
According to the statement, the armed Walgreens security guard who killed Banko Brown is one case that should be charged. The security guard who shot 24-year-old Brown dead had the charges against him dropped.
Meanwhile, demonstrators noted public services which would see a decrease in funding include education, housing, and public parks. Budget cuts would also impact programs which provide services to marginalized residents, including San Francisco’s food bank—which would have funding from its grocery access program drop from $10 million to $0 for 2025.
The mayor’s budget plan would also cut $5 million from a program that provides support to tenant’s rights nonprofits, noted protestors who said the funding would go to programs to help tenants understand their rights and advocate for themselves.
Members who attended the rally are worried about the impact budget cuts will have on San Francisco’s marginalized youth who depend on these programs to fulfill their basic needs.
Kazani Finao, a member of the group Justice for Banko Brown Coalition, stated, “Often people forget that young queer, nonbinary, and trans people of color have always been at the frontline of any social shift and change, but today we are still considered outsiders. We deserve the right to affordable living. We deserve the right to access economic breakthroughs to enhance our own wealth.”
Violeta Vasquez, a member of the group 5elements, also spoke out, charging, “We should be investing directly into our young people to empower them in creating the future we dream of. Mayor Breed is stripping away the funding for the dwindling population of youth and families that will leave them even more vulnerable than they had ever been while educating a pandemic that exacerbated horrendous conditions.”
Vasquez concluded, “The city can afford to support our community, it has a $14 billion budget. The problem is that corruption has led to a gross mismanagement of our annual budget.”
Julia Arroyo, from the Young Women’s Freedom Center, and Yesenia Cortez, from Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, commented on the increased funding for both the DA’s office and San Francisco Police Department.
Arroyo said, “Investing primarily in law enforcement while failing to provide enough funding for community health and wellness is irresponsible… SFPD officers are the second-highest paid police officers in the entire country. If giving more money to them would solve our city’s problems, it would have done so by now.”
She continued, “It makes no sense that the mayor is putting $62 million into SF police, when our youth don’t feel safe around police…Our youth need housing access, supportive spaces, and quality education. That is where the money should be going. There are people struggling for their basic needs. My main concern is: Who is the City actually choosing to protect? Who are we keeping safe? Who’s sense of safety are we honoring?”