Members of the press outnumbered Ross Mirkarimi supporters at a news conference held Wednesday morning in front of the Women’s Building on 18th Street.
Representatives from the San Francisco Labor Council, a coalition organization representing more than 100,000 workers from various labor unions, had come to speak against what they see as a politically motivated campaign to oust the sheriff. Earlier in August, the Council adopted a motion opposing Mirkarimi’s removal from office.
Days after he took office as sheriff, Mirkarimi was arrested on charges of domestic violence following allegations of an altercation with his wife, Eliana Lopez. While Mirkarimi settled the criminal charges by pleading guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in March, Mayor Ed Lee placed the sheriff in front of the Ethics Commission on charges of official misconduct.
Mirkarimi now awaits a vote by the Board of Supervisors to decide if he will be removed from office. Nine or more of the 11 supervisors must vote for removal in order for Mirkarimi to lose his job.
At the press conference Wednesday, the representatives spoke against the attempt to remove Mirkarimi, characterizing it as both a labor issue and one of politics unjustly motivating prosecution.
“The opponents have no real reason other than a political reason for wanting Ross out of office,” said Brenda Barros, a long-time employee of San Francisco General Hospital and a member of SEIU Local 1021, which represents more than half the city’s employees.
“It is a worker’s right issue for me, that is why I am so adamant,” said Barros.
Rodger Scott, a delegate to the Council and past president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, which represents the faculty of City College of San Francisco, said that the law is being manipulated.
“I see this as a matter of due process,” he said, referring to the criminal proceedings, which he alleges have not been conducted as they would have been with any other defendant.
Steve Zeltzer, a member of the United Public Workers for Action, an organizing committee protecting the rights of California public workers, said that while he didn’t support Mirkarimi politically, he too saw it as a case of justice being corrupted by politics, adding that he can’t support the sheriff’s removal from office.
“We don’t believe that he should be politically prosecuted and it is unethical the way that he is being removed,” Zeltzer said.
The question of domestic abuse had been blown out of proportion, the speakers said.
“When I read the media accounts it sounded like a very severe situation of spousal abuse; however, the more I learned about it, the more I changed my mind,” said Scott.
Barros, the only female speaker at the press conference, said that Mirkarimi’s actions did not warrant his removal from office.
“No male who did what Ross did should be out of a job, and that is my fundamental belief,” Barros said, referring to the incident between Mirkarimi and Lopez.
“I certainly support the prosecution of the people who abuse women,” Scott said. “I believe in this case he made a serious mistake. However, I believe he has paid dearly for this mistake.”
The speakers hinted at a politically motivated campaign to oust a progressive and popular candidate from office. According to them, bias permeated the proceedings, spearheaded by a mayor who received fewer votes than Mirkarimi in the last election.
“The district attorney said in a press conference with a straight face, ‘I doubted his sincerity when he engaged in plea bargaining,’” said Scott. “What district attorney would ever do this?”
For Zeltzer, the bias was evident in what the city has failed to do — prosecute other seemingly more deserving candidates.
“City workers are being harassed and illegally discriminated against; their cause is not being taken up,” he said.
Ultimately, Scott was optimistic regarding Mirkarimi’s fate.
“I think he should prevail. I think he will prevail.”