SF Police Chief George Gascón’s reference to members of the city’s Middle Eastern community parking a van in front of the Hall of Justice and blowing it up, sent shock waves through the Arab American community.
The chief was addressing a crowd of about 150 City Hall officials and members of the building trades and was one of several speakers discussing the $412 million bond to seismically retrofit a number of city buildings, including moving some Police Department functions out of the decrepit Hall of Justice and into a new Mission Bay facility.
Despite some reports to the contrary from those in attendance, Gascón on Thursday said he never referred to Middle Easterners or Arab Americans. He said he instead singled out those from Yemen and Afghanistan as posing potential terrorism risks – especially in an iconic city like San Francisco with large numbers of residents from those countries.
(He SHOULD have just said “Muslims” instead, because not all Arabs are Muslims)
He said. “The reality is this is the area where we’re seeing most of the international terrorism coming from. … I think certainly in this case, people are reading too much into it.”
He gave no specific examples of threats to San Francisco, but did point to the attempted bombing on Christmas Day of a Detroit-bound airplane by a man allegedly trained by an al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.
Ali Altaha, a member of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce who owns a small engineering firm in the city and was at the breakfast at the Ferry Building’s MarketBar, said the chief should be fired.
“He basically said there’s a large Arab American community in the Bay Area, a lot of Muslims, and because of terrorism, they need to be very careful,” Altaha recalled. (Yeah, and what’s wrong with that?) “It was very degrading, very inappropriate for a city official to make comments in this manner. … I felt he was trying to sell terrorism as a commodity to justify his position or funding for his department.” (No, he is selling terrorism because Muslim are perpetrating it wherever they are)
Altaha, who moved from his native Iraq 30 years ago, said he tried to speak with the chief outside afterward. “I was expecting him to make an apology,” Altaha said, noting that didn’t happen. “He was very aggressive and very cocky about it.” (Too bad, go back to Iraq) SF GATE
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