Pandemonium broke out at the monthly meeting of the People of Parkside Sunset.
Photo and story by Thomas K. Pendergast
(Originally published in the March, 2017, issue of the Sunset Beacon newspaper, a community newspaper serving the Sunset District of San Francisco.)
The People of Parkside Sunset (POPS) tried to start a regular meeting at the Taraval Police Station in San Francisco on March 2, but the organizers of the meeting and a guest speaker were shouted down by neighbors opposed to a proposed medical cannabis dispensary (MCD).
Representatives of the Apothecarium, which currently runs an MCD in the Castro District and will be opening another in the Marina District, want to open an MCD at the intersection of Noriega Street and 32nd Avenue. They were supposed to give a presentation of the business model they are considering but they never got that far because a packed room of locals took over the meeting and shut it down.
"We all have a history with another MCD that tried to open up on Taraval Street a couple of years, ago," said POPS Vice President, Dallas Udovch. "This is a different company. It's not the same people. ... I would like you to at least hear what he has to say, give it a fair consideration and then we can make up our minds as a community afterwords, but I do not want a shouting match here tonight."
And that was about as much fair consideration there was for the rest of the meeting, because a shouting match quickly ensued.
"If it's announcements, we have the right to protest. If it's announcements we don't have to listen to the announcements!" said one man wearing glasses and standing directly across the room, raising his voice as he went.
"This is our own community meeting here," Udovch responded. "They've kindly asked to do a presentation. They just want to show you what they want to present to the neighborhood. It's like any other business. Now, if you're against it, that's fine. This is not going to be a forum for shouting. We're going to be civilized. We're going to give their group a chance to make a presentation."
"Excuse me sir," said a woman nearby. "Do we have the right to say something that they can hear from us, whether the community welcomes them in the community?"
"Of course," Udovch said.
"That's a good point," said another man standing near the door.
Most of the crowd broke into applause at that point. But the man wearing glasses started yelling at the top of his voice.
"Get them out! Get them out! Get them out!," he said. "We don't have to hear them!"
Then someone asked who was the person in the crowd there on behalf of the proposed MCD, wanting Udovch to point them out, but he did not respond.
"Don't give them a chance! Not even a chance!" the man with the glasses screamed, as an uproar and yelling swelled throughout the room, verging on pandemonium.
Then they started chanting at the MCD representative, "Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!"
The protesters were asked to show some respect for the people who had come to give the presentation. But the response was negative and then heated up even more.
"To invaders we don't have to show any respect!" shouted the man with the glasses. "To enemy invaders we don't have to show any respect, OK?"
"Everyone has a fair voice here! And you are out of order here!" Udovch shouted back at him.
"For invaders there's no respect. For invaders, there's no fair chance!" the man with the glasses said emphatically. "This is our community! They don't belong here!"
The yelling and shouting in the crowd began to drown out Udovch as he tried to bring some order to the meeting, but he managed to calm things down for a few minutes.
He then tried to have one of the Apothecarium reps speak, but the man got only a few sentences out when he was called "evil" and told to "make it short."
The man began talking about his mother dying because she took some medicine, but a woman in the crowd yelled out, "who cares," and another man said "she'll die anyway."
That was about as far as the guest speaker got.
"Can we stop the nonsense here?" said the man with the glasses. Then he started yelling hysterically "Get him out! You are garbage! He's lying! You're lying! You are invaders in our community! Take him out! Stop him!"
Eventually, Udovch had to shut down the monthly meeting, without tackling other important business.
More articles about this issue: