An outdoor public meeting in San Francisco hosted by Mayor London Breed to discuss the city’s pressing issues descended into chaos amid jeering and heckling that culminated in a female bystander hurling a brick at politicians.
The open-air event at United Nations Plaza on Tuesday had just been abandoned in favor of moving inside as city officials admitted they couldn’t be heard over the noise of protesters when the woman threw the projectile.
The brick reportedly missed the podium, but struck a high school girl who had been due to participate in the meeting, according to the San Francisco Standard. Police arrested a suspect, 26-year-old Elysia Katet of San Francisco, and took her into custody.
Video of the arrest was shared on Twitter by the Standard.
The dramatic scenes played out as the city remains gripped by crime, homelessness and rampant, open drug use on the streets. The opioid epidemic has spiralled in recent years with the emergence of fentanyl, an extremely addictive painkiller that has caused a spike in fatal overdoses.
The crimewave has seen major businesses flee the city citing safety fears for their employees, with Nordstrom and Whole Foods among those quitting the area, and smaller businesses suffering from thefts and vandalism.
Tuesday’s meeting in the Plaza—which the San Francisco Standard reported cost $4,000 in terms of multi-agency staffing, clearing the area and logistics—was supposed to address the drug crisis, with the mayor expected to answer to the Board of Supervisors. She wanted to discuss a plan for a pilot program that will see tougher law enforcement against open-air drug use.
But speaker Aaron Peskin, the Board president, was repeatedly drowned out by shouts from the public as he tried to question Breed. There were chants of “no more cops” by onlookers who shouted that fentanyl supply should be cut off into the city, rather than arresting individual addicted users.
When Breed approached the microphone, instead of responding to Peskin’s question about whether she supported a increased coordination among local and regional agencies to stamp out drug-dealing, she said: “The fact is, I’m not sure, without listening to the public, that this is going to be the right forum to answer your question thoroughly.”
Peskin agreed and cut the hearing short: “In light of the mayor’s statement, which I appreciate, we will recess this meeting to the Board of Supervisors’ chamber, wherein the mayor will respond to the afore-asked question… you are all welcome to join us.”
As officials prepared to leave, the crowd appeared to grow angrier still, with many booing loudly, and it was at that point that a woman threw a brick toward the podium, which hit the foot of a Galileo High School student who was with a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps class presenting flags for the meeting. The girl wasn’t injured, and the suspect was tackled by several police officers.
Further drama ensued as the police tried to hold back the crowd, and many people began filming the incident on their cell phones. Elysia Katet was subsequently booked into jail for child endangerment and assault with a deadly weapon.
Newsweek has reached out to the San Francisco Police Department and the mayor’s office by email for further information and comment.
Katet’s mother, Gail Tittle, told the San Francisco Standardthat her daughter, who was originally from Austin, Texas, suffered from mental illness and had lived in a homeless shelter after moving to San Francisco. She claimed Katet had refused help from her family, but was upset about how the city treats homeless people.
Tittle told the newspaper: “She’s not a violent person, but she does have mental health problems. […] I hope that they get her help.”