The picture has been causing outrage on the internet for a few days. The video, captured by a bakery worker, shows a man leaning on a fence and shooting water at a homeless woman sitting on the sidewalk in front of subject’s shop, an art gallery in San Francisco’s upscale Jackson Square neighborhood. Collier Gwin, the gallery owner, was arrested by police on Wednesday night and charged with a misdemeanor over the incident.
“An attack on a homeless member of our community is unacceptable,” District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement Wednesday. The lawyer assures that Gwin, who was arrested around 3.30 p.m., must face consequences for his actions. If found guilty by a judge, the gallerist could serve up to six months in county jail and be fined $2,000.
The scene, which caused outrage in San Francisco, was captured on a cellphone Monday January 9 by Edson Garcia, a Salvadoran who works as a chef at a bakery near the Foster Gwin Gallery in Jackson Square. The problem started when Gwin went to clean his stool and asked the woman to move from her seat. The affected person was only identified as Q by residents of the neighborhood.
Gwin refused to hose her down. Garcia said it was a rainy morning and the sidewalk was already wet from the storms that have ravaged Northern California in recent weeks. City Superintendent Aaron Peskin, one of San Francisco’s highest authorities, announced a few days ago that the woman required hospital treatment after the incident.
The video quickly went viral on Twitter, where it racked up more than 10.5 million views. But the humiliating sequence also provoked reactions. The gallery was destroyed and the glass front door smashed. “I understand there is a lot of momentum to act, but what we need most right now is courtesy,” Police Commissioner Bill Scott said publicly to calm things down. The gallery’s score and reputation on online services also plummeted.
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After the outrage that the video triggered in San Francisco, Gwin apologized. He did it nuanced and reluctantly. He told a local broadcaster that he found it difficult to apologize for his “horrific” actions. In an interview with the broadcaster, he assured that in the two weeks before the video he asked the city police for help for the homeless woman. This Monday he just got fed up and acted like he can be seen in the pictures.
Little is known about Q, who suffers from mental health issues and is known to several merchants and neighborhood residents. According to testimony collected by The San Francisco Chronicle, the woman travels the area in street garbage cans in search of food. Sometimes he is hostile to people walking down the street.
With a population of 815,000, San Francisco has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the United States. A census by local authorities in the summer of 2022 estimated that around 20,000 people were in this situation. That number was the best in years as it represented a 3.5% decline compared to 2021. Nevertheless, there are many images of this tense coexistence that can be seen on the city streets.
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