Signs of the times - Page 3

Peace groups fight the city's handbill posting ban — and the one man who works to enforce it in the Mission District

"I'm doing a lot of things in the community on behalf of the Mission District."
Yet Kramer is hostile to the view that maybe the Mission was fine just the way it was, a point made by many residents interviewed by the Guardian — particularly activists with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition (MAC) — who are more concerned with gentrification than the proliferation of signs for war protests.
"Because their causes are so lofty, they feel like they're above the law.... They think that because their cause is so important, the end justifies the means," Kramer said of the many groups with which he's battled, from ANSWER and MAC to New College and the Socialist Action and Anarchist bookstores. "Free speech is not unlimited and the war in Iraq has nothing to do with clean streets. They're just lazy and would rather just wheat-paste posters everywhere."
Kramer said he's been paid a full-time salary for his efforts for the last year, although neither he nor Clean City — which contracts with him — would say how much he makes. But whatever it is, Grant said Kramer's days as a fully funded antisign enforcer might be coming to an end.
"The Green Patrol is not being funded by DPW anymore," Grant said, noting that the contract expires at the end of August. "At this time, there's no plan to carry it past August."
ANSWER's Becker has had several confrontations with Kramer, although both men insist that their actions aren't personally directed at the other. Kramer is just trying to remove what he sees as blight and Becker is just trying to keep the public aware that the United States is waging an illegal war on Iraq and supporting Israel's aggressive militarism.
"The war, from our perspective, is really growing," said Becker. "A considerable number of people are becoming more alarmed by what's happening. The war has intensified and it's a complete disaster."
Set against that global imperative — and the role of US citizens in allowing it to continue — Kramer's "sacred lampposts" are a little silly to Becker. "He's got this attitude that 'I'm preserving your community for you,’” Becker said. "It's a crazy thing and it's gotten completely out of control."
But facing fines that could total $28,000 with penalties, ANSWER has been forced to take the sign laws seriously, pursue legal action for what it believes is an important constitutional right, and instruct volunteers on the rules (with only limited effectiveness, considering some unaffiliated antiwar activists simply print flyers from ANSWER's Web site and post them).
"The most important issue to us and to other political organizations with limited income is being able to communicate with the public," Becker said.
And the sign ordinance has made that more difficult. Nonetheless, ANSWER has remained aggressive in calling and publicizing its protests, including the antiwar rally Aug. 12, starting at 11 a.m. in Civic Center Plaza.
As Becker said, "Despite the threat of these massive fines, we're going to keep moving forward." SFBG

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