San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón angered Arab American leaders by saying that the city’s Hall of Justice is susceptible to members of the city’s Middle Eastern community parking a van in front of it and blowing it up. The comment came at a breakfast discussing a bond issue to retrofit the building to minimize earthquake damage. The San Francisco Chronicle says that despite some reports to the contrary from those in attendance, Gascón 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. Ali Altaha, a member of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce who owns a small engineering firm and attended the session, said the chief should be fired. “I felt he was trying to sell terrorism as a commodity to justify his position or funding for his department,” Altaha said.