SAN FRANCISCO – Shawn Sunshine Strickland, a homeless, transgender woman who persisted in protesting on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall without first obtaining a permit, recently filed a petition in the U.S. District Court of Northern California claiming she was harassed by sheriff’s deputies, thereby threatening her civil rights and inflicting great emotional harm.
The petition, filed May 28 on her behalf by Attorney Donald Cloyce Wagda, named as defendants three deputies and one to 200 unnamed deputies in addition to the city and county of San Francisco. The filing demands a jury trial and seeks $1 million for general damages, $1 million in punitive damages from each of the deputies as well as attorney’s fees and court costs.
Other relief requested in the filing includes a declaration that each of the city’s permitting policies is unconstitutional under the First Amendment and an injunction prohibiting the city; Deputies Barry Bloom, Ms. Humphrey and Juan Garrido; and 1 to 200 Does and any of their respective officers, employees, supervisees and agents from enforcing or threatening to enforce any of the permitting policies.
“Shawn Strickland is a disabled, homeless, two-spirit intersex transgender woman, hate crime victim and suicide attempt survivor,” the filing said, adding that she was originally from Texas. “She has found the city so expensive that, despite her monthly disability income, she cannot afford housing. Adding insult to injury, her rights and dignity have continued to be violated right here in her city of refuge, San Francisco, including two incidents that are the subject of this complaint.”
In December 2017, Strickland went to the steps of city hall to hold a brief prayer vigil and pay her respects because of the death of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Among the flowers already there, she placed a small piece of Peacock Ore (a spiritual crystal), a Christmas ornament and several other small offerings.
As described in the petition, Strickland, who was (and is) female-identified in appearance, “wore her usual daily dress, a superhero-style costume including a cape.” Shortly after her arrival, Strickland began broadcasting and remotely recording her one-person vigil with her smartphone via a software application known as Periscope. The broadcasts and recordings were seen by multiple remotely-located viewers.
During this time, she was requested to leave several times by Deputies Bloom and Garrido, saying that she would need a permit to demonstrate on the steps, the filing said. A brief argument ensued and Strickland said, “No, that’s not how it works,” reciting the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Then, according to the petition, she said, “You shouldn't have interrupted the vigil. You shouldn't have interrupted my prayers. That’s wrong of you to do that. You are in the wrong, Deputy Garrido. No, We’re done. We’re done. I’m filing a lawsuit against the sheriff. We are done.”
In the evening of April 23, 2017, Strickland returned, displaying a medium-size cloth banner saying, “I am a victim of hate crimes. Super Girl of San Francisco. Super Girls for Justice,” the petition said. She stated to her online audience that she intended to spend the night there.
Later that evening, in order to accentuate and amplify her protest banner’s message, she proceeded to encircle the banner with a narrow band of olive oil and salt poured directly on the steps to form a circle (the “Spiritual Circle”), the petition said. According to Ms. Strickland’s beliefs, such a circle also contains metaphysical energy and forms a sacred space, providing a form of protection against negativity, the filing said. While she was forming the circle, she played on her smartphone an original song by Bob Marley.
At this point, Bloom and Humphrey approached Strickland and disrupted her demonstration and spiritual ceremony, the filing said.
Strickland was not cited or arrested for any alleged violation of law in connection with the April Incident, nor was there any probable cause to believe she violated any law without legal justification, the filing said
The filing said that during a brief initial conversation with Strickland, Bloom violently grabbed her by the wrist and otherwise attempted to intimidate her into ending her demonstration and leaving the scene immediately.
Bloom then placed one foot inside the Spiritual Circle and, with his other foot, trampled upon it, each step “breaking the circle” and introducing negative metaphysical energy into it (per Strickland’s Pagan beliefs), the filing said.
“The conduct of Defendant Bloom and Deputy Humphrey, as described herein in connection with the December arrest, violated plaintiff’s right, secured under California law, to be free of reckless infliction of emotional distress," the filing said.