San Francisco prides itself on being the showcase of progressive thought and tolerance.
No way. Trust me there is a segment, albiet small, of the population which fits in quite nicely with the Trumpian Make America Great Again know nothings.
This incident, gone world wide, happened on Clay Street in the toney Pacific Heights Swells neighborhood. It is illustrative of the San Francisco intolerant underbelly.
San Francisco Chronicle 6.15.2020
James Juanillo hoped to inspire others when he started stenciling “Black Lives Matter” on the retaining wall of his Pacific Heights home in San Francisco.
But as the 50-year-old finished adding the chalk letters on Tuesday afternoon, June 9, a man and woman approached him to ask if the property belonged to him before accusing him of defacing private property. Juanillo recorded the incident and shared it with his 33 Twitter followers.
By Monday morning, the video had collected 16.1 million views, added more than 17,000 followers to Juanillo’s account and resulted in a financial services company reportedly firing one of the two people who wrongly accused Juanillo of breaking the law.
The incident also spurred the latest conversation about racism and a presumption of guilt being unfairly applied to people of color in a nation still reeling from the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and numerous other instances in which law enforcement have killed or beaten people under questionable or illegal circumstances.
Juanillo told The Chronicle in an interview Monday morning that he felt ambivalent about everything that happened over the past week.
“On one hand, I want them to learn a lesson from this,” he said. “On the other hand, I am the first person to say that this was not as egregious as what Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd. It was never my intent, or my intention for them to lose their livelihoods.
“I think it is sad. But they could have just kept on walking.”
The nearly two-minute video starts with a woman in a white shirt and short shorts asking Juanillo if he was stenciling on his own property. He asks the woman and man why they were asking.
Subsequent reports have identified the woman as Lisa Alexander, CEO of skin care line LaFace.
“If I did live here and it was my property, this would be absolutely fine,” Juanillo asks her in the video.
“Totally,” says a man with Alexander, who was later identified as Robert Larkin.
James Juanillo waves to the public
“We actually do know, that’s why we are asking,” Alexander responds.
Juanillo tells them they can call the police or the owners because they were accusing him of defacing private property. He refuses to answer their questions and encourages them to call the police.
“I’ll be right here,” he says.
The pair then walks away, but they did apparently call the police.
Officers arrived within two minutes and recognized him, Juanillo told The Chronicle, adding that he’s lived in the same home since 2002. Without blaring their sirens or exiting their vehicles, the officers complimented him on the stencil work and soon left, he said.
Juanillo said he waited by a window overlooking his chalk work and the couple returned. He waved at them, he said, but again they walked away.
“They can come up to the front of the house, apologize, tell me it was a misunderstanding or what not, and this would have never happened,” Juanillo said. “I would have never posted the video. But instead they walked away.”
The Chronicle’s attempts to reach Alexander and Larkin for comment, as well as obtain an apology she reportedly issued Sunday, were unsuccessful.
Juanillo said most of the people who saw him stenciling expressed some kind of solidarity — from telling him, “Good job, bro,” to smiling and gesturing.
“I thought it was a shame that these two people couldn’t just ignore what I was doing,” he said.
Raymond James, the company where Larkin reportedly worked, issued a statement early Monday saying an unnamed employee no longer worked with the company following a probe into a “video alleging racism by one of our associates.”
“We have concluded that the actions of he and his partner were inconsistent with our values, and the associate is no longer employed with Raymond James,” the statement said.
Now that he has a platform of more than 17,500 followers on Twitter, Juanillo said he hopes to find a path forward from the incident and share it with others. The pair left him a note Sunday with instructions to contact Alexander, Juanillo said, and he plans to reach out once he’s “in a better mental state.”
He hopes the two who confronted him can realize they are part of a problem, even if they thought they had good intentions.
“Our country is being torn apart right now,” Juanillo said. “I think a lot of people need to examine how this is going to be resolved. And I think we all need to work forward and toward forgiveness and empathy.”