An open letter to the Supervisors who voted to reinstate Ross Mirkarimi as Sheriff

Dear Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Kim, and Olague,

I passed Alice B. Toklas Place on my way home from rehearsing with my dance company tonight. I’ve read that she was born one block away from there, on O’Farrell Street, a stone’s throw from where I live as a single woman in the Tenderloin. She had quite a life, didn’t she?

I am mentioning this because a lot has changed since she lived here. A San Francisco LGBT Democratic club bears her name, but I think she would be just as disgusted as I am with the fact that you didn’t have the nerve to definitively fire “Sheriff” Ross Mirkarimi, and that because of your actions and your actions alone, he remains in office.

Yes, Ross Mirkarimi is still sheriff.

Ross Mirkarimi, who beat his wife last December.

Ross Mirkarimi, who pled guilty to false imprisonment in relation to that event, is sheriff.

Ross Mirkarimi, who is ON PROBATION FOR A CRIME RELATED TO DOMESTIC ABUSE, remains in the highest-ranked LAW ENFORCEMENT position we have.

I hate to use such a hackneyed phrase, but this reeks of inmates running the asylum. And it reeks of your cowardice, because you would rather defend a fellow public office-holder of appallingly poor character than to support the women of San Francisco who have been victims of domestic violence.

Thanks for the spit in the eye.

But hey, after all, it’s not like this is one of many ways women are demeaned in America nowadays, is it? We’re not like those backward Republican states, are we? Oh, no no no. We’re more enlightened than that, aren’t we? We’re better than them. We would never share their ignorant ideas and scorn women like that.

Right, and my Muni bus is really the Batmobile.

John Avalos, we almost elected you mayor. You said that you wouldn’t sack Mirkarimi because it would set a “bad precedent.” I also understand you have a daughter. If you want to talk about precedents, of the moral rather than the legal kind, what kind of example do you think this sets for her? That a man can beat her up and terrify her and still hold on to power, so she might as well not even go through the hassle (and public slating) of reporting domestic violence? You have a son, too. How can you not see that this sends him the message that, as a man, he can act like a scumbag and not face consequences? I suppose you don’t care, because your vote shows you support exactly that.

David Campos, shame on you. You are an attorney. You went to Harvard Law, so you’re clearly not stupid. It should go without saying that you should know better. As an openly gay man and former undocumented immigrant, you are probably familiar with the fear that comes from people trying to make your life hell just because of who you are. You would probably agree with me that such behavior is completely unacceptable. Too bad your actions tonight demonstrated a total lack of empathy with other vulnerable people, like women who get beaten senseless by their partners. Why not? Aren’t they just as innocent as anybody else who is the victim of violence? Because by your actions, you seem to be endorsing the idea that domestic violence is no big deal. Hey, it was just a bruise Ross Mirkarimi gave to Eliana Lopez, right? Hey, she regretted it after the case turned into a media circus, so she must have not been that upset, right? It’s not like a man has never gone from inflicting small bruises to breaking bones, right? It’s not like this sends any kind of message to the public that you can be a wife-beating idiot and keep your job in law enforcement and lots of powerful people will rally to your side, right? Rhetorical questions, sir. Surely you’ve encountered these in your legal career.

Jane Kim, I’m most ashamed of you. You represent District 6, which includes the Tenderloin, SoMa, and Mid-Market areas. Ever wonder how some of the women on the streets around here became homeless? Ever wonder what the men in their lives did to them? Maybe you don’t care about them because few of them are registered to vote, but they are woman just like you. I would like to invite you to sit down with me for coffee somewhere on Market Street and explain to me why you sold out women like this, because I sure as hell can’t figure it out myself…and I’m getting a PhD from the state’s premier public university. Actually, no. Don’t waste your time on me. I’m doing fine. I am a lucky woman who thankfully doesn’t have to be afraid of any of the men in her life. Go look a battered woman in the eye and tell her why you did this. You too, Christina Olague. I really and truly hope you never have to deal with the pain and terror victims of domestic abuse have to confront. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. But I doubt you feel likewise, because you just handed Ross Mirkarimi back his power on a plate. Hey, if you can sleep at night, then don’t let me burden you with any guilt. I’m just one woman. I’m just one San Francisco voter who expected a higher standard from the Board of Supervisors. Silly, silly me.

All four of you don’t see what he did as sufficient enough to be called “official misconduct.” Then what the hell is it?

Oh, and shame on former mayor Art Agnos for his truly egregious statement that “Anyone who knows Eliana Lopez knows she is not a woman who could be or has been abused.” Excuse me? Whether a woman gets abused is a matter of HER character? Wow, stupid me. I thought it was a matter of whether a man beat her up. Are all the women who suffer domestic violence simply weak-willed? Are you saying that if they had been the right kind of person, it wouldn’t have happened to them? That Eliana Lopez is somehow different from all those Jane Does, and if they were more like her, they would have control over their men? Wow. Just, wow. Congratulations, Mr. Agnos. You’ve rendered me temporarily speechless. That is not an easy thing to do. Only temporarily, mind you. I might even say that anyone who knows Julia Kite knows she is not a woman who could be shut up for very long…but your utter stupidity comes close.

It is a matter of character. It is a matter of what kind of behavior we think is unacceptable for a city official. You may say that because it happened in between when he was elected and when he was sworn in, it doesn’t count. I think it counted to Eliana Lopez when she was documenting it, and I think it counts to every woman who has been beaten. A punch hurts just as much regardless of the title of the person delivering it. You may say that because the domestic violence charges were eventually dropped, it’s irrelevant. Sorry, you’re flat-out wrong. First of all, we all saw the bruises. Secondly, he pled guilty to false imprisonment in relation to the event, and he is currently on probation. I can’t believe I have to spell this out for elected officials, but YOU DON’T GIVE THE TITLE OF SHERIFF TO A MAN WHO IS ON PROBATION. Every five-year-old knows you don’t give a shoplifter the keys to your store. You don’t give an arsonist a pack of matches. YOU DON’T GIVE A MAN ON PROBATION FOR A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE-RELATED OFFENSE THE OFFICE OF SHERIFF. This is behavior I would expect from the most backward old boy’s club known to man, not from a city that prides itself on being liberal. I have lived in some corrupt places, but my god, this is by far the most disgusting act I’ve witnessed from any city council. Why should women have any faith in you to act in their best interests?

Guess what? It’s not just about Eliana Lopez anymore. It’s about every woman in this city, and our right that basic standards of behavior be required for someone holding an office like Sheriff. If Lopez and her husband want to pose for the cameras as a happy couple, then that’s their business and not mine. What IS my business, as a voter in San Francisco, is that Mirkarimi holds the highest law enforcement position in the city and county.  It became my business the minute he was elected. He has displayed character unbecoming of such an official. You have all displayed character unbecoming of people who are supposed to represent your constituents.

I never really cared much about this city’s politics, but now I will make sure I do everything in my power to convince voters you shouldn’t be reelected. They deserve better.

You had a chance to send a message that domestic violence will not be tolerated. You didn’t. And maybe you can live comfortably with that, but I’m raging and I’m not going to be quiet about it. You are all educated people – surely you’ve heard the old trope about how all evil needs to thrive is for good people to do nothing.

Forgive this PhD student, this uppity pissed-off woman, for occasionally being  ineloquent in my anger, but what you have done is reprehensible. You call yourselves liberal? I call you spineless. I call you cowards, and I’m quite happy to come out and say that, because I’m one of those women who doesn’t shut up. I am appalled by your actions, and so very ashamed to live in San Francisco.

And do you think I’m the only one? Go ask Alice.


Julia Kite