While he’s taken a perhaps unfair share of heat from police, press and others for his unabashedly progressive stances on issues and a perceived milquetoast character, Supervisor Eric Mar is nothing if not principled, with Mar sticking his neck out on international and local workers’, human and civil rights.
It was that sense of duty and civic activism that on Thursday led Mar to the downtown law offices of labor attorney John Kloosterman, where Mar and about three dozen housekeepers, nannies and labor activists hoped to hand-deliver to Kloosterman — who represents US firms who employ domestic workers, and who is headed to Switzerland next week for the International Labour Organization’s annual conference — a Board of Supervisors resolution urging for an end to exploitation and abuse of domestic workers.
Simple enough. All Mar wanted was five minutes of Kloosterman’s time (and all the activists with Mar wanted to do was chant “Shame on Kloosterman!” when the attorney wouldn’t come out of his office to be shouted at by maids with brown faces). But instead Mar — who is himself an attorney, and an (albeit inactive) member of the California State Bar Association — found the police sicced on him.
SFPD responded to a call at Kloosterman’s 20th-floor office on California Street on Thursday, and informed Mar and his cohorts that they would be arrested if they did not depart, resolution in hand and tails between legs.
Calls to both Mar and Kloosterman were not immediately returned on Friday afternoon, but always-on-the-spot IndyBay.org has a seven-minute video handy. See for yourself the chanting and the appearance of SFPD towards the end.
“This is a disgrace,” said Hillary Ronen, aide to Supervisor David Campos, in a news release. An attorney herself, Ronen was in attendance and was the chief chanter. “Kloosterman is calling the police on elected city officials when all we are
asking is for 5 minutes of his time. This man is supposedly representing US employers of domestic workers at the ILO, and yet he is refusing to even face a room full of domestic workers who have come to his office.”
While we admit a club over the head or perhaps even a pepper-spraying would have been more badass, there’s no denying Mar’s presence at the front lines.
UPDATE 3:09 p.m. The police were sicced on Mar’s crew without warning, after an office secretary had told the contingent of activists to “wait five minutes” to see if Kloosterman would receive them, according to Mar, who just phoned The Appeal. While they waited, before the five minutes were over or before any other of Kloosterman’s staffers said a word, the SFPD arrived and asked them to leave.
“I’ll just say, I expected [Kloosterman] or at the very least a secretary would come out at least to say he couldn’t receive us,” Mar said. “If that had happened, we would have left.”
Among the people kicked out were Juana Flores, who is bound to have a few choice words for Kloosterman when she sees him in Geneva. Flores, a former domestic worker who is now Director of Bay Area immigrant women’s center Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the Caring Hands Worker Association is one half of the US’s delegation to the ILO conference, Kloosterman the other.
Mar, who said that he’d had brushes with police while participating in civil disobedience actions before (though he politely declined to say more) said the cops acted gracefully and professionally in dealing with the situation.
“I’m not outraged I was kicked out,” he added. “I’m outraged a powerful lawyer who works on labor issues didn’t have respect for immigrant women and domestic workers’ rights.”