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Act to halt racist 911 calls pushed in San Francisco

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San Francisco from the Marin Headlands on March 31, 2019 during California's Superbloom by Noah Friedlander
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Jul 09, 2020 - 05:10 AM

SAN FRANCISCO – A member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has introduced on Tuesday an act that responds to the increasing incidence of people calling the emergency hotline 911 to “report” Black people and people of color doing daily activities.

The “Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies” or the “CAREN Act” will illegalize people to contact law enforcement to discriminate on the basis of a person’s race, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Shamann Walton on Tuesday said.

Walton, in his presentation aired at San Francisco Government TV, has cited several instances of racial discrimination through the emergency hotline.

He said the advent of smart phones and social media made it possible for these incidences to be recorded and picked up by media outlets.

“Last year, there were many incidents of individuals calling the police on black people and people of color, from Barbecue Becky to Permit Patty to a group of young leaders from Project Level right here in San Francisco getting profiled at Forever 21 — and that’s just here in the Bay Area,” he said.

Also in the Bay Area, an individual last month has called the police on a Black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in Alameda.

“…and a couple called the police on a Filipino man stenciling “Black Lives Matter,” in chalk, in front of his own home in Pacific Heights,” he added.

The racial discrimination through 911 was not only in San Francisco alone but does happen nationwide.

Walton said a woman has phoned the police on a Black man who was birdwatching in Central Park in New York, while accusing him of harassing her.

“And know about George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis after someone called the police on him, accusing him of using counterfeit money at a store where he purchased cigarettes,” he said.

There were also countless incidents that have never been recorded or broadcasted in the news.

Walton stressed that Black indigenous people of color experience post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of law enforcement violating their rights to everyday normal activities.

The CAREN Act, he said, will make it illegal for people to contact law enforcement solely to discriminate on the basis of a person’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and other protected classes, and allow individuals harmed by fraudulent emergency calls based on their race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity to pursue civil remedies through civil court and hold the person making the call accountable for their behavior.

“911 calls and emergency reports are not customer service lines for racist behavior, and using these for fraudulent reports based on the perceived threats of someone’s race takes away emergency resources from actual emergencies,” he said.

Under the CAREN Act, individuals who make fraudulent 911 calls can be sued by those who were harmed for damages for up to $1,000.

“Fraudulent emergency calls against people of color are a form of racial violence and should not be tolerated,” he said.

Walton, however, clarified that the legislation does not aim to discourage people from using emergency lines to report actual emergencies in good faith.

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