(by Matthew Guarigliavia | Electronic Frontier Foundation) – San Francisco Mayor London Breed has pulled a harmful ballot initiative that threatened to gut the city’s landmark 2019 surveillance oversight ordinance. This withdrawal followed intense community pressure, including a coalition letter signed by over 30 San Francisco community and civil rights organizations, including EFF and Electronic Frontier Alliance members Black Movement Law Project and Oakland Privacy.
The mayor and the San Francisco Police Department recently used public fears of crime as justification to introduce the proposed ballot initiative, which would have created massive exceptions to the ordinance’s requirement that police get permission from democratically elected Supervisors before using or acquiring any new surveillance technology. Breed specifically wanted to allow police unilateral authority to access networks of surveillance cameras that they had previously used, without Board approval, to spy on protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Several members of the Board of Supervisors countered this initiative by offering their own ballot measure, which would have strengthened, rather than undermined, the surveillance oversight ordinance. Now that the mayor has pulled her ballot initiative, the Supervisors have done the same.
This is a great victory for the people of San Francisco, who increasingly realize that when police are given more and more power to surveil the public, it is people of color, the unhoused, immigrants, and activists who most often bear the brunt. This victory would not have been possible without the diverse and engaged coalition of dedicated San Francisco citizens and activists who wrote to the mayor, called into Board of Supervisors meetings, and made their concerns heard.
EFF and the rest of the coalition will remain vigilant in the event that the police, mayor, or any other entity attempts to roll back the progress we’ve made in creating a San Francisco that is welcoming to all people.