George GascÃ³n ought to be ashamed! Who ever heard of Yemenis or Afghans committing or advocating acts of terrorism against the U.S.! Why, it’s a downright fabrication! But fear not: the apologizing and bowing and scraping have already begun. “Police chief’s remarks on terrorism anger Arabs,” by Heather Knight for the San Francisco Chronicle, March 26 (thanks to Jockaira):
A breakfast to tout the importance of passing an earthquake-safety bond measure on the June ballot wound up sending shock waves through San Francisco’s Arab American community after Police Chief George GascÃ³n made controversial remarks about terrorism.
GascÃ³n reportedly said the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. is susceptible not just to an earthquake, but also to members of the city’s Middle Eastern community parking a van in front of it and blowing it up.
The chief was addressing a crowd of about 150 City Hall officials and members of the building trades Wednesday 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.
Chief cites countries
Despite some reports to the contrary from those in attendance, GascÃ³n 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 admitted to saying they could park a van in front of the Hall of Justice and blow it up.
“There was no need to single out the two countries, and I recognize that, but it’s not because it was not accurate,” 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. “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.”
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.”
Mayor Gavin Newsom wasn’t at the breakfast, but learned of GascÃ³n’s remarks and phoned Altaha on Wednesday.
“He apologized on behalf of his administration,” Altaha said. “I told him we don’t have a problem with the mayor’s office, but clearly this guy needs to be put in check.”…