A brawl broke out Saturday afternoon near the intersection of Clayton and Haight streets, the initial cause of which is totally unclear. But a neighborhood group that lobbied against the city establishing a sanctioned tent encampment nearby posted video to Twitter and implies homeless campers are to blame.
If you watch the video, it appears that some sort of argument erupted involving two or three people who were trying to get into a parked car on Clayton Street, and some other individuals in the middle of the street. A young man in a white t-shirt appears to step into the street toward the group throwing punches. Another young man punches him several times in the head and knocks him to the ground. A third young man in a white t-shirt appears to join the fight and a young woman carrying the purse, apparently the driver of the car, begins screaming bloody murder as she tries to defend her friends and escape harm herself.
The middle of a beautiful weekend, in the center of our commercial corridor. Where is our Supervisor who handed out tents? Where are the masks? If the punches do not hurt, the virus certainly will. Unacceptable. Families are leaving and business are closing up. This has to stop. pic.twitter.com/g2mZpP6TOH— safehealthyhaight (@SafeHaight) October 3, 2020
Tents are visible on the sidewalk near where the brawl took place, but it's far from clear if any of the participants are homeless — and there's a noted range of ages, along with some tie-dye garments in common, among the brawlers and onlookers. No one involved was wearing a mask.
But the group that posted the video, Safe Healthy Haight, calls out Supervisor Dean Preston for having distributed tents to the homeless earlier in the pandemic, and they say, "Where are the masks? If the punches do not hurt, the virus certainly will. Unacceptable." The group adds, "Families are leaving and business are closing up. This has to stop."
NBC Bay Area reports that the SFPD is investigating the brawl, and they spoke to area resident Chris Leduc who said, "There’s not enough of a police presence in all of the neighborhoods here."
In a Medium post in August, Safe Healthy Haight writes that they are not anti-homeless, but they are a group of "residents, families and local small businesses owners" who don't believe that tent camping on streets should be condoned, in the interest of public health and safety.
A group with a different name, Concerned Citizens of the Haight, sued the city in May just days before a sanctioned "Safe Sleeping Village" opened with 60 tent spaces on the former McDonald's site at Stanyan and Haight. Safe Healthy Haight was established that same week. It's unclear how much overlap in membership there is between the groups, and while Safe Healthy Haight claims not to be anonymous, but only the identity of a spokesperson, Michelle Leighton, has been publicized to SFist's knowledge.
"We do not believe it is the right strategy to bring more tent encampments and encourage street living in the Haight, as it threatens public health, the survival of our surrounding small businesses and can undo decades of work and tens of millions of dollars spent by the city to clean up the Stanyan Street entrance to Golden Gate Park," the group writes. "We do support viable and humane solutions such as low-income housing and other alternatives with adequate security and health provisions for both the unhoused as well as residents."
Supervisor Dean Preston has yet to comment publicly on the video. Previously, Preston has said to the Chronicle, "No one is happy with the situation. Not the people in the tents or the neighbors." And he's said, "I challenge the critics to offer some solutions here."
The Safe Sleeping Village at Haight and Stanyan was scheduled to exist for only three to six months, and it's been there nearly five months. But residents in the area like Leighton have complained about the many campers who have spread out throughout the neighborhood. As she said to the Chronicle in May, Preston and his supporters "handed out all of these tents without any plan at all of what to do, so we end up with the tents on the sidewalks."