Billionaires, ‘Super Rich’ Named as ‘Surveillance State 17’ Contributors Fueling Prop E Plan to Turn SF Residents into ‘Guinea Pigs’ for Police Spying

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By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Three organizations and 17 “Super Rich” wealthy donors—including five billionaires—were singled out at a rally here this week as the primary contributors supporting Prop. E, which opponents of the measure charge benefits San Francisco police and politicians, not the public.

The measure could turn San Franciscans “into guinea pigs for surveillance experiments by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD),” according to Reason Magazine’s analysis, charging Proposition E purports to streamline the SFPD, with sections on community engagement, recordkeeping, and the department’s vehicle pursuit and use of force policies.”

Current SF law requires the SFPD to get approval to use “surveillance technologies”—like surveillance cameras, automatic license plate readers, or cell site simulators—but the SF Board of Supervisors must approve it. It’s how facial recognition was banned, said Reason.

But opponents claim Prop. E would allow SFPD to “acquire and/or use a Surveillance Technology so long as it submits a Surveillance Technology Policy to the Board of Supervisors for approval by ordinance within one year of the use or acquisition, and may continue to use that Surveillance Technology after the end of that year unless the Board adopts an ordinance that disapproves the Policy.”

Reason writes, “SFPD could roll out an unapproved method of surveillance, and it would have free rein to operate within the city for up to a year before ever having to ask city officials for permission. And until the city passes a statute that specifically forbids it—that is, forbidding a technology that is by that point already in use—then the SFPD can keep using it indefinitely.”

That’s the message community leaders, elected officials and other had at the rally to, they said, “protest the disproportionate influence of San Francisco’s super rich on the city’s politics and police.” Those donors, Prop. E opponents said, have contributed 95 percent of the Prop. E campaigns’ combined $1.5 million.

And opponents named names.

The “Surveillance State 17,” as described by the measure’s opponents, include the following, who allegedly contributed $15,000 or more each: Chris Larsen, Ari A Lurie, Ronald Conway, Nellie Levchin, Katie Schwab Page, William Oberndorf, Jonathan Adam Gans, Jeremy Liew, Gil Simon, Alison Gelb Pincus, Marc Pincus, Emmett Shear (YC Advisor), Jeffrey Lawson, Gloria Shiff, Erica Lawson, Cathy Podell and Katherine August.”

In a statement released by opponents, Harvey Milk Democratic Club Vice President Melissa Hernandez said, “Among those 17 there are five billionaires, four CEOs, four investors. 0 Teachers. 0 Nurses. 0 Union Members.”

And former Police Commissioner Angela Chan added, in the statement, “We are here today to tell the tech oligarchs in this city that we need more independent oversight of SFPD to address police misconduct and corruption, not less.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed was also a target of the protest. Breed, said opponents, “one of Prop. E’s most vocal advocates, received withering criticism.”

“Prop. E and Prop. F are two of the most anti-Black policies that have been brought to the ballot in the past two decades and it saddens me that our city’s first Black woman Mayor is the spokesperson of these two self-inflicting policies,” said attorney Geoffrea Morris, co-founder of Black Wall Street. 

Morris added, “Mayor Breed’s Prop. E is nothing more than a billionaire’s dog whistle that seeks to rollback all of 2020’s civil rights gains that occurred immediately after the brutal murder of George Floyd. Proposition E is simply a poison pill to police accountability and transparency in city and county of San Francisco.”

“Mayor Breed’s misguided measure would roll back a decade of work that has brought our Police Department better oversight and accountability, which is critical to build the community trust necessary for better policing and better outcomes for all communities,” said District 11 Supervisor and Mayoral Candidate Ahsha Safai

Opponents said their protest was held at SF’s Y Combinator “because one of the YC advisors is Emmett Shear, who gave $49,000 to support Prop E. Even though he now claims he doesn’t remember… Garry Tan, President of YC, has personally spent millions of dollars to influence politics in San Francisco, largely pushing conservative policies through his ‘grey money network.’”

“What’s the appropriate amount of time police should be allowed to violate our privacy and safety without accountability and oversight?” asked Nash Sheard, managing director of advocacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Sheard added, “It seems insultingly simple that the answer should be no time ever, but a small band of tech billionaires have joined forces to raise over $1 million to convince us the answer is at least one year.  San Franciscans know a scam when we see it. Unchecked surveillance is not the solution to our city’s challenges, and we can’t sit silently while opportunists turn our streets into a surveillance state testing lab. “ 

Speakers at the rally, according to the statement, described “harrowing first-hand accounts of encounters with SFPD.”

“While being followed by police the person who I was with had a seizure. The police officers saw him fall to the ground, but instead of calling an ambulance, they arrested me due to (for) violating my probation conditions, by being in the wrong neighborhood.  I was released from detention the next day because I hadn’t actually violated probation but it was so traumatizing for me to watch the police not care about his safety,” said Lucero Herrera, Statewide Program Director, Young Women’s Freedom Center.

Herrera added, “And while SFPD is really good at arresting Black and Brown people for no reason, it’s actually really bad at solving serious crimes. My own mother went missing and was found decomposing in Sonoma County and there has been no justice for her, or for my family.”

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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