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Woman in video of Pacific Heights BLM dispute complains to city officials

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 7/11/2020 By Dominic Fracassa

Lisa Alexander, the woman who stirred outrage and contempt after she confronted a man for stenciling “Black Lives Matter” in chalk outside his Pacific Heights home last month, wrote to San Francisco city officials Friday lamenting being linked to Supervisor Shamann Walton’s Caren Act, legislation he introduced this week that would make discriminatory 911 calls illegal.

In a letter sent to Mayor London Breed and the entire Board of Supervisors that was reviewed by The Chronicle, Alexander complains that she has become an emblem for precisely the kind of incident the Caren Act is intended to deter — largely because she claims she did not call 911 to report James Juanillo’s alleged vandalism.

“I agree with Supervisor Walton’s position that people should not make unfounded or racially motivated 911 calls or reports that divert police resources from real emergencies. However, I never called 911,”

That appears to be technically true: According to Walton, who reviewed the call, her husband did. “He was the main speaker. She had plenty to say in the background,” Walton said. A spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department confirmed police were called to Juanillo’s home, but that there “was no merit” to claims of a crime taking place.

“We did not call 911. There is a big difference,” Alexander told The Chronicle in an email. “We called the nonemergency, local precinct SFPD number we have been given for local neighborhood issues, we never considered this an emergency situation at all.”

Alexander’s encounter with Juanillo reached a national audience after the video Juanillo captured of the incident ricocheted across the internet. It has been viewed 23.5 million times on Juanillo’s Twitter page alone.

It shows Alexander and her husband, Robert Larkin, approaching Juanillo as he finishes stenciling “Black Lives Matter” on the retaining wall outside his home. Alexander and Larkin insist that Juanillo, who is Filipino, does not own the home and was therefore vandalizing it. Juanillo refuses to answer their questions and invites them to call the police. The video ends as Alexander and Larkin walk away.

The episode echos a string of similar, widely seen confrontations captured on cell phone videos in which white people accuse or accost Black people and other persons of color without provocation. The subtext of the incident with Juanillo, as with many similar encounters, is often that a person of color is reflexively deemed by a white person to be somehow out of place — even in a place they’ve lived for years, as Juanillo has.

Such events have given rise to the “Karen” moniker, a slang title for entitled white women complaining about people of color, usually to the police. Walton’s legislation is a wry nod to the term, but the “Caren” in his legislation stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. The legislation would amend the San Francisco Police Code to make it unlawful for someone to “fabricate false racially biased emergency reports,” according to Walton.

Walton said the measure “isn’t directed at any particular person. Hopefully people understand that this abuse of 911 has led to the actual killing of Black people and people of color. I apologize that she takes it personally, maybe it’s because it is.”

Walton said he has no desire to meet with Alexander personally.

Both Alexander and Larkin have apologized publicly for their response to Juanillo and pledged to use it as an opportunity to learn about racism. Larkin was subsequently fired from his job at the Raymond James financial services firm. Alexander’s skin care company, LaFace, was removed from the beauty subscription service Birchbox because of the encounter.

The backlash “has been absolutely devastating to me, my health and my livelihood,” Alexander wrote to the city officials. “But most importantly, to the cause, because Black Lives Matter and destroying someone who agrees with this message is counterproductive to the cause and confusing for those who care.”

Alexander wrote that race was never a consideration in her decision to confront Juanillo, only the notion that “what to me was a stranger” was writing on her neighbor’s wall.

David Perry, a longtime communications professional who is acting as Juanillo’s spokesman pro bono to help him contend with the avalanche of attention, said that after reviewing Alexander’s letter, her characterization of events was “factually incorrect on a number of issues,” but did not specify what they were.

“The one clear fact is this: A resident of San Francisco was questioned in front of his own home for painting Black Lives Matter on his own home. Sadly, this was not the first time such behavior has come to the fore, and just as sadly it’s likely not the last. Hopefully, this has been a teachable moment for many people about making assumptions.”

Dominic Fracassa is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: dfracassa@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @dominicfracassa

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