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Palo Alto’s Vehicle Habitation Ordinance

Bad Policy – But not a reflection of the whole community

As reported in an earlier issue of STREET SHEET, the Palo Alto City Council, on August 5th, approved an ordinance making it illegal to live in a vehicle. When such legislation is passed, it’s easy to paint an entire community as biased and mean-spirited. This isn’t always the case as the following E-mail exchange between two Palo Alto residents clearly illustrates.

On Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM, Brian Good wrote: 

Back in the 70s a friend of mine lived in a low-rent rooming house in North Palo Alto because that’s what he could afford on his pay as a janitor.  I’m not sure if the house is still standing, but I saw one recently that might have been it offered for sale at $2.4 million.

For 40 years, the City Council has aggressively pursued policies to facilitate kicking low-income people out of rooming houses so that rich people can occupy multi-million dollar homes. The agents who are offering this property are college-educated, and have skills that might allow them to help make the world a better place. Instead, aided by the Palo Alto City Council, they are engaged in the trivial pursuit of providing nicer housing to rich people who already have nice housing.

We’ve all heard about the Greatest Generation, that fought the Nazis and made the USA great. I’m disgusted with my generation, the S**ttiest Generation, with its lazy cynicism and selfishness that has made this crumbling world the way it is. Continue reading

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Homeless and Poor People Targeted Again

Supervisor Carmen Chu’s Hate Law banning parking of large vehicles (RV’s, Campers, etc.) sailed through the Board of Supervisors with only 4 members, John Avalos, Jane Kim, David Campos and Christina Olague, standing up for the rights of people who have lost so much already.

Read the complete story in the next issue of Street Sheet, October 1st.


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Free MUNI for Youth On the Horizon

A movement for transit justice has gotten rolling in San Francisco.

Travel can be an important part of every young person’s upbringing, especially in a city as culturally rich San Francisco. Unfortunately, it is getting increasingly difficult for young people to get around—to school, after school programs, jobs, volunteer activities, museums, and parks. Thousands of youth, parents, drivers, bike riders and community members have joined together to demand that young people be able to use Muni for free to get to and from school, work, parks and museums.

San Francisco is not seen as a family-friendly city. Each year, more and more families with children move away. The cost of Muni’s Youth FastPass has more than doubled in the last two years. The San Francisco Unified School District will be cutting yellow school bus service every year for the next three years, beginning this year. Young people who cannot afford the rising cost and who have no choice but to sneak onto the bus are at risk of getting a $100 fine by Muni’s Proof of Payment program. The economic crisis is only making things worse, especially for African American, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other low-income youth in this city. We are building a broad base of support for this proposal. The Youth Commission has already voted unanimously to support free FastPasses for youth. Now, we have to win support from the MTA, the School Board, the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee.

Free FastPasses will benefit everyone in the city, in particular low-income families who scrape money together every month to pay rent and put food on the table. We cannot afford for our next generation to not go to school.

Recently, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging the different partners in the city to work on the proposal together. At the MTA Board meeting on October 18, the Board and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin heard the community speak. At the end, they all agreed the imminent need of free youth Fast Passes, while some still raising budgetary concerns. They have concluded that the SFMTA shall direct staff persons to investigate the feasibility of the proposals, and Director Reiskin promised to report back, earliest by the end of the year.


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Mama, I Heard You Cry: The Idriss Stelley Foundation Story Conclusion

By Marlon Crump (previously published by Poor News Network)

I awake every day, even up here, to watch, listen, and secure you. I don’t care what day you are due up here with me, Mom, for I’ve always heard you cry, before and after they took me. I’m never leaving you, as we are bonded for eternity.

Before I decided to chronicle the “Idriss Stelley Foundation” series, last year, Idriss’ spirit channeled through my soul and communicated with me to his mom, Mesha Monge-Irizarry through this poem (the poem continues throughout this story.) I called it: IDRISS’S ADDRESS. For everyone that reads this series conclusion chronicled by POOR, you all will see why.

On the morning of June 13th, 2001 at 7:45 am, Mesha worked literally 25 hours due to the shortage of staff. An hour later, she received a phone call that will forever haunt her:

“Mom, I need $2,000 or I am a dead man tonight!” This would also be the last time she would ever hear her son’s voice again. Mesha was stunned by these terrifying words, and very afraid. Her son seldom asked her for any money, given the fact that he was a marble union worker. Idriss wouldn’t go into further details over the phone, and promised her that he would explain everything when she got home from work.

“Me and Mama Dee left out of this theater (Sony Metreon Theater) about a half hour before Idriss was killed,” POOR Magazine/POOR News Network, Co-Founder “Tiny” Lisa Gray-Garcia would later tell me.

Ma, I heard and saw you cry internally, even today, I can see your very tears plague your heart. God called me home ten years ago, and I’ve hovered over you since.

I’m sure that his girlfriend, Summer Galbreath, will never forget those awful words by Idriss Stelley: “Summer, you know that I am going to die tonight!” With that, Idriss was in a somber mood for the rest of the day. While inside one of the movie theaters at the Sony Metreon Theater located at Mission and 4th Street. He and Summer went to watch a movie called “Swordfish,” starring John Travolta. In the movie, there was a scene where Travolta lights up a cigarette. Seconds later, Idriss did exactly the same. A security guard approached Idriss and instructed him to put out his cigarette.

In the “Darkened Theater” (which was titled by the San Francisco Chronicle during its “Use of Force” series that published its own “version” of Idriss’s death) Idriss Stelley stood up and faced the audience. “If you have families or loved ones, leave now. Something bad could happen!” Idriss exclaimed.

Almost immediately, the movie patrons stampeded out of the theater like a wild herd in heeding his words…all but one, a man of African descent, who was asleep in the theater, unaware of the commotion. Summer had gone to use the restroom and was also unaware of what was going on, which is what she asked Idriss after seeing that everyone had cleared out.

“Baby, go home, I don’t want you to get hurt.” Idriss said “Go home to your family.” Summer left, but did not go home and was outside with everyone that left the theater. At this point, Idriss is all alone in the theater, shy of the gentleman who was still asleep. He then dialed 911 on his cell phone.

“Mesha, there are cops everywhere!” Summer said frantically over the phone. “They say that he has a gun, but he ain’t got no gun! I told them not to hurt him!” The call dropped. Mesha called Summer back immediately. It was 11:09pm.

I got called from heaven on that deep dark day, 7 years, 5 and a half months today. Though my life was abruptly cut short, Ma, I heard you cry. Before and after the hail of gunfire tore my body, I heard you on the phone to attempt to save me, but didn’t even get to see me, as you heard me die.

The moment that Mesha Monge-Irizarry called Summer back, she heard the shots ring out in the background that killed her only child, Idriss Scott Stelley. A barrage total of 48 shots is what it took for numerous officers of three San Francisco Police Department precinct stations to calm down a young man who was clearly suffering from a total mental breakdown. Use of Deadly Force.

Those very shots from June 13th, 2001 at 11:09 pm still ring out to this very day in Mesha’s mind. “Why wasn’t I there to shield his body with mine?” she often asks herself.

The three SFPD precincts that “responded” to the 911 call by Idriss and Summer harshly evacuated everyone from the Sony Metreon Theater “with shotguns” according to witnesses, employees, movie patrons, and spectators to the chaotic scene. The precincts that responded were the Tenderloin Task Force, the Bayview and the Mission District Station.

During the evacuation, the black gentleman who was asleep in the theater was seen by a witness led out in handcuffs through a back entrance. “What the f!@#$ is wrong with y’all!” the man was heard yelling to the cops as he was being taken away. “He didn’t have a gun, but you all had weapons!” In fact, the only “weapon” that was discovered on Idriss was a Thumbelina-sized carving tool (hooked to a thin pager chain) that the officers would later claim he tried to cut one of them with.

Summer saw the man from the theatre an hour later as he awaited interrogation by one of the homicide investigators at the SF Hall of “Justice.” The man later “mysteriously disappeared.” The unidentified man was later regarded as an “unreliable source” due to alleged intoxication.

Mesha was hastily driven to San Francisco General Hospital by a friend, grasping onto an ounce of hope that Idriss was still alive. Upon her arrival, she saw two officers at the Emergency Room entrance.

Mesha approached a triage nurse to find out if Idriss had been admitted. Like so many mothers, she received the words that no mother ever wants to hear.

“Your son died at the scene,” said one of the police officers. “You need to come with us to the Homicide Division.” Mesha was so shaken up, in a state of shock, that she doesn’t even remember ever riding in the patrol car.

My demise remerged your very soul, giving velocity to your courage and commitment to save others. My departure from the clutches of the wickedness that’s plagued you and everyone, will never be in vain.

At 5:30am Mesha called Summer to give her the terrible news. “Baby, your man is dead.” Once the word “dead” registered in Summer’s ears, she started screaming at the top of her lungs. All along, while she was being interrogated, she kept asking the officers “How is E (Idriss’s nickname)? Tell me how is E?!”  “Don’t worry, darling, he’s fine. He’s going to be just fine,” kept contending the investigators.

“It is internal policy that when there is a shootout, everyone must empty their gun” Holly Pera, from the SFPD Homicide Detail Division replied, when she was asked by Mesha three days after Idriss’s death, “Why so many bullets?” There was never any real “shootout” because of the blatant fact that Idriss didn’t carry a gun. Or is it possible that the officers emptied their firearms to mislead investigators as to which officer fired first, during the ballistics investigation?

After the officers killed Idriss, they allegedly tried to perform CPR on him for 45 minutes.

They then dragged his dead body through an emergency exit of the Sony Metreon into a dark alley away from public view and scrutiny. Idriss’ body was riddled with bullets that ranged from his skull, exploding his brain, his neck, chest, arms, abdomen, thighs, calves, etc. Idriss’s body was practically covered from head-to-toe with bullets holes and blood.

It was also reported that there were bullet holes in the walls by an exit door of the theater. Was Idriss actually trying to flee despite the hail of bullets that ultimately took his life? This is mind shattering, given the fact that Idriss’s entire body was now literally shattered to shreds, yet now there was an attempt from Idriss’s killers to “revive him?” By performing CPR? On a man whose brain matter is splattered on the theater seats? What was really taking place in that dark alley from alongside the “Darkened Theater” may always remain a mystery.

“Idriss Stelley’s case is at the root of the 40 hour mandatory mental health training,” said SF Public Defender, Jeff Adachi in 2002, a year after Idriss’s death. These sentiments by Adachi were somewhat ironic because Mesha, herself, conducted comprehensive, “de-escalating” police intervention training series at the SFPD Academy and for the SF Sheriff’s Department until 2000, while she was successively the program manager of La Casa de las Madres, Woman, Inc., SHANTI, and Hayward Emergency Shelters.

In the past, Mesha has repeatedly offered her technical assistance to prior SF Police Chiefs: Fred Lau, Earl Sanders, and Heather Fong. In addition, she offered the same to SF Sheriff’s Department. “All, but to no avail,” Mesha stated, disappointedly, but not the least bit surprised by their overall lack of response.

They may have taken my life, but my soul and spirit will continue to inhabit, comfort, and cloud you. I’ve sent you many loved ones, shielders, and protectors, for you are always right as rain.

In 2003, Mesha won an out of court settlement (after she sued the City of San Francisco over the unjustified use of deadly force against Idriss) for the sum of $500,000. After her lawyer, Andy Schwartz, collected 35% of the money, she entered a business partnership with the remaining $250,000 with Willie Ratcliff’s Liberty Builders, Bayview, Inc., while keeping $25,000 to open the Idriss Stelley Foundation and keep a (clients and services) rolling fund. “I did this in the hope to strengthen Black and Brown ownership in the SF Bayview District,” Mesha said during the interview.

A day after the SF “Fajitagate” scandal exploded in 2002 (which involved the indictment of 12 top brass officers), Mesha was issued an apology – at her mediation in front of a retired judge, pointing toward a possible settlement from Heather Fong, who had just been nominated Deputy Chief that very day, before being appointed to head the SFPD by SF Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004.

Fong’s words in front of the City Attorney: “On behalf of our department and the City of San Francisco, I apologize for what happened to Idriss. It was wrong, and we want to make sure such thing never happens again.” Mesha’s attorney was gasping, ecstatic…but she immediately knew that such a contention, occurring during a confidential mediation process was inconsequential in terms of the outcome of her case.

Ma, I heard, and please stop crying, for I’m no longer dying, anymore. You were reborn and revitalized to save others like me, tell people like me, and given a heart like jewel to forgive anyone, even the killers of me.

Mesha publicly forgave the police officers for their execution of Idriss, something most moms or fathers rarely, if ever, do. She decided to use the rest of the money to create the grassroots, nonprofit organization that would hold law enforcement accountable for unethical conduct during the course of their duties: the Idriss Stelley Foundation. “I could not entertain the thought of spending a penny of Idriss’s blood money on myself!” Mesha exclaimed.

You may have not got my justice the way it should’ve been served, on the other hand I placed it on your shoulder, and assured you I’m always there, never past tense.

In September of 2004, Mesha took the SFPD Citizen’s Academy Training 15-week course in order to get a better understanding of the organizational culture of the entire department. While Mesha was attending, she learned the fundamental basics that a police officer would need in order to “serve” and “protect” the public. She learned tackling techniques, applications of containment through pain-inflicting physical measures and weapons. Mesha–understandably–could not bear to participate in target practice. Just a couple of years ago, Mesha showed me a picture of herself, between Lieutenant Flores and Chief Heather Fong while holding her graduating certificate.

Don’t ever think for a second, Mama, that evil will prevail, for my supreme father has toured me through the gates of Heaven and Hell. Many get so discouraged, despite how hard they fight, but little do they know of the glory that is yet to come. That day is coming, they shall all see.

As I prepared to wrap up the interview, Mesha concluded with her final thoughts of hope and commitment to keeping the soul and legacy of Idriss Stelley alive to help others who’ve experienced her pain. “Two nights ago, I dreamt of a storm raging through my bedroom. Idriss was sitting on my bed while dead leaves accumulated around us on the bed sheets. Then without transition, we held each other, looking down the Sphinx River and seeing the bodies of our ancestors drifting down the dark waters. Some of them were rotting, others chipping bones, while others were mere transparent shadows. I felt that Idriss is calling me.”

Before I packed up my paper and pen, Mesha gently tapped my hand. “But it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. I will not rest until we make substantial strides against illegal racial biased policing and lethal force against our Sisters and Brothers. Let’s keep going safe and strong in serving and protecting each other.” As I hugged her goodnight, she quietly told me to “keep a stiff upper lip” and not to take any “wooden nickels.”

“In Pro Per Power!” she said, giving reference to my civil suit against the City of San Francisco over SFPD misconduct last year, when I represented myself with no one to help me. Though I was unsuccessful, I will never misrepresent myself in heeding those very powerful words because they forever echo in my heart.



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Our Shaman: THE IDRISS STELLEY FOUNDATION STORY (PART 2 of 3)

By Marlon Crump

At his funeral, Idriss was eulogized as “Our Shaman” by the Dean of Students of SF Healds College, Mr. Patrick Hutchinson. Idriss counseled many fellow students, among them a single dad (who was suicidal), who said at the funeral mass that Idriss saved his life. These were just some of Idriss Stelley’ success stories,” his mother told me, a proud smile on her lips, as we continued our interview on the life and death of her son.

We sat at her home in the Bayview Hunters Point in early December. In between sips of freshly brewed coffee, Mesha showed me Idriss’ diplomas and awards and shared stories from his life.

I marveled at Idriss’ awards, trophies and accomplishments, including his Second Degree Black Belt Karate diploma and his Post Mortem “Resistance Award” received from POOR Magazine. Mesha continued showing me his seemingly endless memorabilia, including his craftsmanship of an unfinished stone sculpture, an Egyptian Sphinx that Mesha gave me to keep. Idriss was in the Marble Union and was working on this sphinx on the very day he was killed by the SFPD. “He did not get a chance to finish it…” she explained, her voice sadly trailing off. She then began to tell me about Idriss’ birth.

Idriss Scott Stelley was born on August 20th, 1977 at the Alternative Birth Center at the San Francisco General Hospital in a room full of incense, Indian music of Ravi Shankar and cheering friends.

Idriss graduated first out of 90 students from Optnet in Advanced Web Design, and was a Spanish tutor at Wallenberg High School, as well as a French and Advanced Math tutor at San Francisco City College and John Adams Community College.

With an IQ of 145, Idriss tutored in colleges even before his own graduation from high school through Independent Studies. He also taught ESL to undocumented migrants at the San Francisco Day Labor Program, volunteered on the AIDS Ward 5A, the very place of his birth , and aided in the soup kitchen at Glide Memorial Church. In addition, Idriss also volunteered at Arriba Juntos, a center in the Mission District that provides job readiness workshops, computer labs, and job search skills. He also taught graffiti-airbrush design at a Fillmore center for at-risk Youth, and at 7 years old, was the youngest performing artist of the SF Mime Troupe, in the “Madame Video” play. He also performed in several SF International Franco-American School’s Shakespearean productions.

Of eclectic taste, Idriss was an avid reader of the mainstream “classics”, but favored the works of Malcolm X and his beloved Koran (Idriss converted to Islam at 17.) In his apartment the air was often filled with music. From Bach, Bela Bartok, Debussy, Eric Sati, Aranjuez, and Misa Criola, to Miles Davis, Sidney Bechet, and Thelonius Monk to U2, Tupac, Paris, Sade and Michel Franti, Idriss appreciated many different styles of music.

In formal attire and bow tie, he routinely assisted his godfather, Mr. Henry Watson, who passed away, heartbroken, a year after Idriss’ death. Mr. Watson, head usher of the SF Opera House, was a wonderful Black man who introduced Idriss to rich AfriKan American culture as well as his musical and “classical” education.

Although I’ve never met or laid eyes on Idriss, Mesha has often told me of how much I remind her of her only child, because we both share a very rare kind of wisdom, and exceptional background. It is always a wonderful feeling to hear Mesha say this to me, because I have adopted her as my “godmother” and feel truly blessed with everything she offers me, especially post-trauma counseling.

Given everything that I have gone through in the past few years, in my dealing with homelessness, poverty, criminalization, racism, police brutality, and injustice, I feel that meeting Idriss would have restored hope in me about the fate of those struggling in this corrupt society. I believe that our relationship would have shown that unity in communities plagued with poverty, violence, racism and incarceration, is not impossible. And that despite the venomous lies of corporate media and its portrayal of non-white communities and people struggling with poverty, we can unite to make change.

“I taught Idriss that it is never too early to commit to social justice,” said Mesha. As we traded warm smiles, dusk began to blanket the earth outside. I sat my cup of coffee down and we both took a break, before Mesha began to share the most difficult part of the interview, and the deepest, darkest moment that forever changed her life and the lives of many others: The Death of Idriss Stelley.

To Be Continued…


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Equal Access to Education for Homeless Children

It’s common, if infrequently articulated, knowledge that homelessness isn’t good for you. Homelessness is accompanied by a substantially higher mortality rate than has the population at large, difficulty obtaining employment, and enormous social stigma.

These negative impacts are compounded for homeless children, and their schooling suffers as a result. Researchers at Columbia University have found that homeless children are half again as likely as their housed peers to perform below grade level in reading and spelling, and more than twice as likely to perform poorly in math.

The causes are obvious: Without stable housing, homeless children are subject to far higher stress; they frequently do not have adequate space to do homework. They lack access to many of the resources employed by their housed peers.

With the current recession, this problem is expanding dramatically. Looking at the first year of the recession, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and First Focus published the report The Economic Crisis Hits Home: The Unfolding Increase in Child & Youth Homelessness. NAEHCY looked into homeless student populations at 1,716 school districts across the country. In the first semester of the 2008–2009 school year, nearly 20% of these districts had enrolled more homeless students than they had in the entirety of the 2007–2008 school year. A further 49% had seen at least half the prior year’s number of students within the first few months. Over 95% reported some increase. And 2008–2009 built on increases the prior school year.

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