Two things can be true: Jordan Neely's life and death was tragic, but the answer is not to put ourselves as risk because "compassion"
I used to ride the bus in Vancouver as well. It was a long time ago, but I remember one night coming back from my Denny's waitress job in Richmond and getting off on Granville and 57th. It was about 10pm in June, so not that long after sunset. A guy followed me off the bus and somehow raced ahead of me. I didn't realize this until I noticed him standing in the middle of someone's lawn jerking himself off, staring right at me, only ten feet away. Of course, I ran for my life.
I think this led to me quitting my waitress job shortly afterward.
I also know the bus route along Hastings that you must be talking about.
As an engineer, there are many times when I've been alone in a lab late at night with only a few people around. In my field of engineering, there is only one woman for every 10 men. Most of the time, this has been fine, but there have been times working for a small company when I have not felt safe. There have been several times where male engineer coworkers have stood very close to me within a few inches near my lab setup or desk. It's a behavior that is hard to describe. There's definitely a territorial aspect to it. Mostly people, like Jessica Valenti, would say what's the big deal? you can just walk away. He just has a thing for you. He's a nice person, just a little weird. Etc.
In general, I have walked away from these situations. But I've also left professional positions because of these situations.
Comments like those of Jessica Valenti silence women and force women to leave jobs and make it difficult for women to use public transportation and public facilities such as restrooms.
Just tonight, I went out to move my car to a better parking spot here in San Francisco. I ran into my neighbor who is Asian. She told me that her car window had been smashed out the night before and that one of the homeless people that lives at the end of our street had jumped out and threatened her when she was parking her car a few nights ago. We talked for a while. She told me that she was angry and afraid. She doesn't go out after dark now.
I am tired of people such as Jessica Valenti, who likely works on a laptop in a protected space, telling less protected women to clam up and walk away.
If a man gets out of line with a woman, it's up to any man that's standing by to intervene and take care of the situation by protecting the woman. You do whatever it takes to neutralize the threat. Even if it means knocking the creep cold.
Excellent post. At age 62, I started training in Krav Maga because I wanted to have the skills to defend my wife, my friends, and myself if I find myself in a situation like this. I'm now 64, two years into my training, and convinced I made the right decision. More than half of my training partners are women. My instructor is also a woman (and a 3rd degree black belt). All have similar motives. None of us wants to hurt anyone. To a person, we have compassion for those whose demons drove them into madness. But our compassion does not require that we become victims, or that we tolerate the abuse of others who are less able to defend themselves. The outrage over this incident should be directed at the inexcusable failure of public safety that set the stage for this tragic event.
Keep up the good work, Meghan. I've been a fan since I saw your interview on Joe Rogan's show. We need more brave voices like yours willing to speak the truth.
Reading some of Jessica's tweets, I wonder how many unhoused people Jessica has actually met and had a conversation with.
I live in an area of San Francisco that, over the years, has had a resident population of homeless people. Our neighborhood has tried to get to know them. We make a point of talking to them. We've never called the police on any homeless person unless they threaten someone. In many cases, we've managed to connect homeless people to services and have gotten them off the street.
About one out of five homeless persons in our neighborhood have repeatedly threatened a neighbor, physically assaulted a neighbor, or repeatedly physically assaulted another homeless person.
The people who commit assaults usually have a long prior record of assaults and are heavily abusing drugs or alcohol.
In San Francisco, unless someone commits a major theft (approximately over $20,000), kills someone, or assaults someone with a deadly weapon, they are not going to be forcibly taken off the streets. A certain number of homeless people with a pattern of violence do not want to voluntarily accept housing and want to continue using drugs. The drug treatment programs that are available are not of long enough duration and are not sufficiently comprehensive to enable most addicts to break their addiction.
Some homeless are not addicts and instead have severe mental health problems. For illnesses like schizophrenia, there are medications that can help, but it is difficult for some to hold down employment. Some with severe schizophrenia are hallucinating to the point that they can become violent.
A small number of homeless people simply couldn't pay their rent. However, in my observation, highly functioning homeless people who simply were evicted don't spend very long on the street.
In general, for people with mental illness or severe addiction, services are fractured and inadequate.
All that being said, it is not realistic to pretend that all will be well if we just "walk away" from people on the street and on public transportation.
An absolutely truthful post about the realities of working class, urban dwelling women. Thanks, as always, for your honest reporting of the truth.
I spent my young adult life living, working and going to school in the downtown core of Seattle. I've now lived in Los Angeles twice and I'm currently raising my three young daughters in Seattle. I've been sexually assaulted, screamed at, chased, spit on and intimidated more times then I can count, starting at 15. I will say my first and worst experience on public transportation happened within the three months of my freshman year in high school, my first experience riding the bus a long way by myself. It was a sexual assault on the back of the bus. I was wearing a skirt. You get my drift. It was terrifying. I never told anyone back then. I definitely wouldn't today for obvious reasons. Remember during the Me Too movement when they told you to shout your sexual assault? Funny how short lived that was.
I quickly learned to sit in the front of the bus next to the bus driver to avoid these scary situations. It worked pretty well. In recent years my kids and I have been chased and intimidated. While it is terrifying as a single young woman it is absolutely unimaginably scary as a mother with three young children. I basically took the strategy of throwing myself, whenever I could, in front of these people. In Santa Monica, on the 3rd Street promenade, an area that is quickly turning into a hot bed of insane crazies, my children were chased while they were trying to play a block in front of me. No one helped while I screamed for assistance down the block.
I will tell you the conversations I have with my twin five year olds and my 8 year old are probably the least woke you will ever hear. They involve the realities of living in the city, including drugs, needles, the mentality ill and guns. We talk about the realities of being a woman/girl and that compassion comes after your own physical safety. That regardless of what people will try to tell you you need to listen to your internal voice: trust yourself & watch out for your sisters and friends. If you feel it's scary it probably is. Fortunately they go to a Catholic school and due to the sexual assault scandals that proliferate they are coached in ways to avoid these things, to listen to their intuition. However go across the street to the public library and you'll see books on the shelf advertised that completely contradict these values. That's a topic for another day.
In addition to sketchy situations with actual humans I've also had sketchy situations with the things they leave around the city. Before I had kids I found a handgun underneath a bush in my yard in a nice middle class neighborhood just north of Downtown Seattle. In Seattle we had to do regular needle and sharps checks as classroom volunteers before sending the preschoolers out to the playground. Before we moved back to Seattle from Los Angeles in 2022 my 4-year-old picked up a hypodermic needle off of the ground of a grocery store parking lot in Culver City a few blocks from their preschool. And on the west coast these things are no longer in the confines of the urban environment.
Many smaller cities on the edge of rural communities throughout Washington State are seeing the effects of homeless encampments, the mentally ill, sketchy shelters with lax rules and drugs. They are living and dwelling in both State and National Parks. Scary to run into a crazy deranged person in the city. Extra scary on a hike by yourself in the woods. This weekend I was talking to someone who lives about as far away from urban Seattle as you can get and is scared to walk down their waterfront because of the amount of homeless encampments they're experiencing.
A homeless encampment was allowed to fester in the park by our house for years. We moved to LA in 2019 and came back in 2022. during that time, post pandemic they cleaned up the encampment in the park near our house. There was a precipitous drop in property crime,. Peak neighborhood crime was a man throwing bricks through windows during the pandemic and some folks stealing the forklift from the neighborhood hardware store and driving it through the grocery store to steal the ATM machine (captured on video, posted to Twitter). Needless to say the businesses in the neighborhood now hire private security to patrol the neighborhood. As for the brick thrower, a non-profit group in Seattle, which provides bail to criminals, bailed him out. He then went down two blocks to commit the same crime. We live in a lovely middle class neighborhood where the homes don't dip under $1 million. While I was raised working class, but that's no longer my peer group. It's strangely isolating -- and super impactful on my values.
Seattle actually seems to be making some improvements but it took voting in a Republican City Attorney (her only opponent was a self described antifa member) and a mayor, who many local Progressive liberals despise, who's willing to do the hard work to prioritize civilian safety over that of crazy aggressive men willing to terrorize people on the street. We still have a man who walks around our neighborhood specifically intimidating women and children. We know him and we pass along the information to others.
Seattle's downtown is gradually becoming a more hollowed out space where no one shows up for work in the corporate high-rises so taking the bus down there to run simple errands feels incredibly unsafe. The other day I took the bus downtown while the kids were at school and was intimidated by a man at the bus stop. Where was everyone I wondered? It was a Tuesday; where were all the lunch goers from the corporate buildings beat cops, ect? Oh yes, the elite work from home crowd. Another related conversation for another day. However, without normal civilians filling up the downtown core it's left to be a violent, drug riddled place where businesses cannot function and citizens cannot thrive.
Living in the city is supposed to provide us benefits like being able to hop on the bus with our kids to be able to enjoy the downtown core, the baseball game the science center. We aren't supposed to be harassed and intimidated by crazy men and then called bigots and racists when we say that we're scared and that we don't think this is acceptable.
I am a fourth generation Seattleite and come from a working class background. When I talk to friends of mine who have a traditional college background and were raised in the suburbs or in wealthy neighborhoods they seem to be completely detached from the realities of city life. If safe and available public transportation isn't one of the primary benefits of living in the city I'm not sure what is.
My daughters tried to describe to me what it's like to be a woman and feel threatened by aggressive men. I didn't, and probably still don't have a real understanding of what it's like.
The incidents you've described Meghan are not in my experience. If anyone has ever tried to intimidate me on the street or using public transportation, I've told them to back off or else and they have immediately done so.
I advised my daughters to do the same and they knew right away that I just didn't get it. The said acting in an intimidating manner toward your aggressor may very likely be detrimental.
But "de-escalation", isn't always an option in confined spaces like on a bus or subway, or even on the street.
So I bought them all pepper spray and stun guns and told them to keep them in their hands in sketchy situations, and to not hesitate to use them preemptively and liberally on aggressive men. 👍
The first time a strange man screamed at me ( for quite some time) in a public parking lot) 2 big guys I worked with were also present. They did nothing as a man twice my age and 3 x my size continued to yell for about 3 minutes. I was 16. At least I learned never to expect a man to help me in public when this happened. Over the ensuing decades and as far more frightening verbal and physical aggressions have been directed at me in public, no man HAS EVER intervened. Oh and that first time? Was in Provo UT where men are supposed to be chivalrous as they’re “tasked” to care for the “inferior” sex.
Who you calling pasty?!
In seriousness, I don’t understand how people can view mentally ill as only deserving of compassion and help. Of course that’s true. We’re all deserving. But we’re all deserving of other things, too, like a decent transit ride. But when more and more unstable humans are on the street and the more the shit hits the fan in a country of 330 million people, shit’s gonna go sideways.
Is this the price of a free society? Well, as long as the Compassionate Awesome Humans are in charge, I guess so.
I live in relatively rural North Carolina, and we don’t have nearly the beds to help psychiatric patients. Why? Money. Or at least the societal will to use it for this.
As always, Meghan, you hit the nail on the head.
"Have compassion" is the very same "be nice" demanded of women who have the temerity to expect safety for themselves before that of violent men.
I lived in New York throughout my 20s and 30s, and, in the countless attacks I've witnessed and experienced from violent men while trapped with them in a subway car, hurtling through the underground, there were a few in which a man/men stepped in when it was obvious my defensive tactics or passive responses were not working and I was in serious danger.
I was glad for those men - they are, sadly, few and far between. That was in the days when one could walk from car to car to car on the subway, and guess what? It still wouldn't guarantee your safety, because a violent man is just as capable of following you.
Now the MTA locks us in, with no escape should something occur while stuck with a dangerous man - especially frightening when you're in an express car and there is a long time between stops.
Walk away, indeed. Or, how about we tell women to just stay home? Is it, once again, our responsibility to avoid being threatened? Where is the compassion for us? When will being sexist, demeaning, and hateful toward women be seen as just as shameful as being racist, xeno- or homophobic?
We readers seem to have been triggered by the giant dose of Stupid that emanated from the keyboard of one Jessica Valenti, who from her bio I see is a Feminist Expert. Reminds me of another old piece of idiotic non-advice given to rape victims: "you didn't try hard enough to get away, because you can't thread a moving needle."
But really, anyone who rides the New York City subways regularly, as I've done for 50 years, has been stuck in a subway car with a menacing nutcase where "just leave" was not an option. Sometimes we witness a senseless brawl between two of them...yes, sometimes there's more than one at a time! But occasionally, someone intervenes.
One memorable time was when a lunatic was walking through the car spitting in people's faces. At the next stop, he blocked the exit by standing in front of the door with his back to the platform. A tall young man calmly stood up and positioned himself in front of the spitter. Holding onto the poles with both hands to balance himself, he gently lifted his right leg, placed the sole of his sneakered foot onto the spitter's chest, and pushed him easily off the train onto the platform just as the doors were closing. Then he quietly sat down and picked up his book. The entire train applauded. A rare but welcomed event.
Saw this article in the San Francisco Examiner this morning:
I can't and won't speak for the cases of Jordan Neely and Banko Brown. Perhaps the footage of the Walgreens situation in which Banko Brown was shot will eventually illustrate more clearly what happened there at Walgreens and 4th (very close to the downtown Nordstroms that is shutting down.)
Some of the other comments around homelessness made in this article are incomplete. I will speak to the comments made by Jennifer Friedenbach, Margot Kushnel and Brandon Greene.
"“Am I imagining things, or is the level of anti-homeless vitriol much worse than it’s ever been?” Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco, recently asked her predecessor, Paul Boden."
"Dr. Margot Kushel, director of the UCSF Benioff Housing and Homelessness Initiative, said far too many reactions to visible homelessness, as well as conversations addressing potential solutions, are “based on people’s fears as opposed to action.”"
"Brandon Greene, director of the ACLU of Northern California’s racial and economic justice program, said many unhoused people, including Brown and Neely, are already dehumanized because of their race and gender identity."
In our neighborhood, there have been two people who pose a risk worthy of sometimes involving the police.
In one case, one unhoused person who had a long domestic violence record, started beating up one of the other unhoused people. He also repeatedly threatened a gay man. He had a drug and alcohol problem. We had tried for a long period to reach out to the precursor of Jennifer Friedenbach's organization. We didn't get anywhere. The neighbors called the police when the other unhoused person was beaten up and ended up in hospital and when the gay man was threatened.
The second case when someone called the police was when an unhoused person started a large fire underneath a Eucalyptus tree late at night. This person had a history of starting fires and burning down large trees. The police refused to take him into custody because they said the unhoused person had not, in the instance they were called for, shown intent to commit arson. In fact, I agreed with this call by the police. However, the neighbor immediately adjacent to the tree and the fire was shaken and upset. They are a young couple with children.
For what it's worth, since Friedenbach, Kushnel and Greene specifically mention that San Franciscans are dehumanizing black unhoused men, in our neighborhood, neither the fire starter nor the guy that beat up another unhoused person were black.
Friedenbach, with much fanfare in 2021, announced that she had a plan to remove the police entirely from being involved in trying to address homelessness:
What actually happened: Jennifer's organization only occasionally is involved in the most challenging homeless situations. It is still largely the police that respond to such situations.
Regarding shoplifting in San Francisco, I don't know what the statistics are, but it seems that a lot of the shoplifters are not unhoused. Instead, many of the shoplifters are part of organized retail theft crime rings. The same goes for catalytic converter thefts, wheel thefts and targeted hits on tourists to get their electronics. The crimes are being committed by organized crime rings.
In response to the killing of Banko Brown, Dean Preston is the loudest voice of the San Francisco supervisors calling for disarming security guards in stores such as Walgreens Drug Store (a drug store chain where many people get their prescriptions filled). He lives in a single family home in Alamo Square where the average home value is about $3,000,000.
Walgreens stores in San Francisco have been a target of organized retail theft for about five years. Most of these stores have security guards posted at the doors to try to limit theft. In response to theft, in some stores, much of the merchandise is under lock, so you have to ask a store person to unlock everyday items like claritin, computer cables, scissors, and toothpaste.
Most of the security guards that work in Walgreens are people of color. So, by asking that security guards not be armed, Dean Preston, a white man who lives in a $3,000,000 house in Alamo square, is asking security guards, who are mostly not white, to risk their lives so that he can look good and make it look like he is addressing problems that largely don't exist.
Contrary to what Dean Preston and this article state, most San Franciscans are not afraid of non-violent unhoused people.
Very tired of the inaction and politicization around homelessness, drug addiction, mental health, and organized retail theft.
You don’t have a right to violate someone’s civil rights based on how you feels. You have a right to defend yourself in an attack, not preemptively murder someone because they are talking crazy.