A caravan of cars, trucks, bikes and marchers traveled from the Mission to San Francisco City Hall late Monday to call for more resources for a Latinx community of essential frontline workers that has been devastated by the coronavirus.
Latinx residents represent half of the city’s 11,195 cases, and yet only 9 percent of the tests the city has administered.
“They’ve known that this has been a problem,” said Jon Jacobo, a member of the Latino Task Force. “The community has tried to play nice for a very long time, but the frustration reached a boiling point after our August testing where we saw again 11 percent [positive test rate] for Latinos.”
The caravan of essential workers met at 16th and Capp streets just before 4 p.m., where at least a dozen cars parked in single file.
Organizers expressed gratitude to Mayor London Breed for the $28.5 million she announced that would be dedicated to helping the Latinx community. But many asked why it took so long — and why only $28.5 million.
Experts have also been confused by the city’s failure to test and spend more in the Latinx community and the southeast neighborhoods that are home to many people of color, including those who are essential workers — and have been disproportionately hit by the virus. The $28 million includes $3 million for testing, but that compares to a testing budget of some $62 million, according to the Department of Public Health.
“It is just the frustrating reality that exists, that our community is neglected and not respected unless we put all of our efforts into organizing and demonstrating very publicly that we’re tired of it,” Jacobo said. “I have a daily call with the Department of Public Health, and every day we have to beat these issues up. There’s been weeks where we’ve told them, either tomorrow morning we’re either going to do tests, or we’re going to do a protest.”
Guillermina Castellanos, founder of the Women’s Collective, also addressed the demonstrators before the caravan left for Civic Center and acknowledged the mayor’s announcement.
“The losses we as a community have seen are not $28 million, it’s millions upon millions more,” Castellanos said.
After a few chants of “Aquí estamos, y no nos vamos” (We’re here and we’re not going anywhere), and “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido” (the people, united, will never be defeated), the group set on its way.
Many of the participants in the protest were immigrants who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
Delfina Martinez used to clean offices until she lost her job in March, and has not worked since. Martinez said her landlord continues to demand rent, despite her lack of income.
Martinez said her landlord even went so far as to call the police, lying to them that she had drugs and guns in her apartment. Police investigated, but found nothing.
“Every time I leave the door, I don’t know if he’s going to be there to threaten me or insult me,” Martinez said.
Oscar Interian used to work two jobs in restaurants, totaling about 70 hours per week. However, he lost both jobs when restaurants shut down. He has now returned to work, but only works about 20 hours a week, nowhere near enough to support himself, he said.
While Interian’s landlord has agreed to let him pay his missed rent back at a later date, the tenant said he has no idea how to pay it back without a significant boost in hours.
“This pandemic left undocumented people with bills, without work, and we can’t receive federal help — but we pay taxes,” Interian said.
Eventually the protest of essential workers and others arrived in front of City Hall. More than a dozen cars stretched down Polk Street, from Grove Street nearly to McAllister Street. A crowd of about 70 gathered at Civic Center Plaza.
Protesters held a moment of silence to honor those who had died of Covid-19.
Ysabel Duron, a board member for the Mission Economic Development Agency and founder of Latino Cancer Institute, called on participants to mourn the dead, but also celebrate their lives by taking action.
Duron also called on the city to invest more resources in the communities with highest need, specifically to community-based organizations who “already have boots on the ground and know where it’s needed.”
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