A billboard calling for San Francisco’s ‘outdoor drug market’ goes up in Union Square

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — San Francisco Mayor London Breed recently traveled to Europe to introduce tourists to San Francisco. But the trip didn’t go well with a group of Bay Area mothers, who responded with a different narrative to potential visitors: Stay home.

The group, called ‘Moms Against Drug Deaths’, spent $25,000 on a new billboard in Union Square that reads: ‘Famous around the world for our brains, our beauty and now cheap fentanyl .”

“It’s cheeky. We hope it gets some attention,” Gina McDonald, one of the band members, told ABC7 News.

“Moms Against Drug Deaths” is made up of a small group of women with children who have died or are addicted to fentanyl. They hope their campaign raises awareness of the city’s open-air drug market.

The main organizer is Jacqui Berlinn, whose son is currently a drug addict living on the streets of San Francisco. She said their group launched the campaign after Mayor Breed’s decision to end the state of emergency in the Tenderloin, followed by the mayor’s recent trip to Europe where she touted San Francisco as a safe and pleasant place. for tourists.

RELATED: SF Mayor London Breed Travels to Europe to Court International Visitors to the Bay Area

“And we’re like, wait a minute, that hasn’t changed. We should still be in a state of emergency,” Berlinn said. “And then she went to Europe and said, ‘Come to San Francisco. It’s good. Uh, no, that’s not good. This is really not the case.

McDonald said the group took the mayor’s speech as a “slap in the face” and ultimately decided the billboard was the answer.

The group said it used its own savings and donations to pay for the $25,000 ad campaign.

Several San Francisco tourism and business associations, including the San Francisco Travel Association, The Hotel Council of San Francisco, the Union Square Alliance and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, issued a joint statement denouncing the campaign.

“The passionate campaign launched today by MADD, while impactful, is not the solution as it will only hurt local small businesses and our hospitality workers who are just beginning to emerge from economic disaster. caused by COVID and its continuing fallout,” the statement read.

VIDEO: A father recounts what it’s like to raise a child surrounded by drug trafficking and crime in SF’s Tenderloin

Joe D’Alessandro, CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, said they agreed the city needed to address the drug crisis, but a crackdown on San Francisco was not the solution.

“They’re asking people to stop coming to San Francisco right now,” he said, “So it hurts people tomorrow.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Breed said the city is working to curb drug use.

“The Mayor agrees that we need to put an end to outdoor drug trafficking in San Francisco. Police officers are making arrests every day and in the past few weeks 20 additional officers have been added to the Tenderloin neighborhood to support our initiative. emergency response,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Police have seized over 10 kilos of fentanyl in the Tenderloin area this year alone, about four times more than what was seized during the same period last year.”

“We know that more needs to be done to make more arrests, but there also needs to be accountability for those who sell drugs, commit acts of violence and make our communities less safe. We also need to increase access to services and treatment. “, the statement continued. “We have hired more than 200 new behavioral health workers, opened the Tenderloin Linkage Center to provide people who suffer from mental health and addiction problems with the help they need, and we are adding hundreds of mental health and addiction services. use beds.”

Moms Against Drug Deaths, however, said it didn’t see enough change. They felt that their recent protest against drug use at the new liaison center had fallen on deaf ears and that they needed to do more to get the town’s attention.

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Berlinn said if they don’t see change and progress soon, they may expand their campaign internationally. She said they could put these billboards in European airports to warn people in San Francisco.

“I know it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not a quick fix,” she said. “But we have to start moving in that direction.”

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