San Francisco is, once again, the center of a controversy over how city leaders treat the U.S. military. This time, it involves an elite group of Marines who wanted to film a recruitment commercial in San Francisco on the anniversary of 9/11.
The tension has been building in the two weeks since the city turned away members of the Silent Drill Platoon, and it boiled over Monday afternoon at a meeting of the San Francisco Film Commission.
The U.S. Marine Silent Drill Platoon performed Monday morning in New York's Times Square. They filmed part of a recruitment commercial through the start of the morning rush hour -- something they could not do in San Francisco on the anniversary of 9/11.
"It's insulting, it's demeaning. This woman is going to insult these young heroes by just arbitrarily saying, 'no, you're not going to film any Marines on California Street," said Captain Greg Corrales of the SFPD Traffic Bureau.
Captain Greg Corrales commands the police traffic bureau that works with crews shooting commercials, TV shows and movies in the city. He's also a Marine veteran and his son is serving his third tour of duty in Iraq.
He says Film Commission Executive Director Stefanie Coyote would only allow the Marine's production crew to film on California Street if there were no Marines in the picture. They wound up filming the empty street and will have to superimpose the Marines later.
"Ms. Coyote's politics blinded her to her duty as the director of the Film Commission and as a responsible citizen," said Captain Corrales.
We asked Stefanie Coyote why they're not allowing the Marines to shoot on California Street. She wouldn't answer our questions.
At today's Film Commission meeting, she said she wouldn't let the Marines film because of rush hour.
"Traffic control was the issue," explained Stefanie Coyote.
However, the Marines would have just shut down one lane of California Street for a few minutes at a time, and Captain Corrales points out the Film Commission often approves shoots for rush hour.
"If they want to get the job done, they find a way to get it done," said Captain Corrales.
The city's treatment of the Marines is making many people angry, from local conservatives like Christine Hughes with the San Francisco Republican Party who told us, "it's an embarrassment. I'm a fourth generation San Franciscan and I don't even recognize my city right now."
To current and former Marines like Vince Rios, a Vietnam veteran.
"I'd like to say, 'does your mother know you're doing this? And if so, is she proud of you for that?'" said Vince Rios.
"The city of San Francisco made a statement saying, 'we don't like the war' by shutting down the troops. I don't think that was the right thing to do," explained Eric Snyder, a U.S. Marine.
"I wish to hell she would leave her politics at home and take care of the city business and the bridge business on an even keel basis," said Mike Paige, a Korea veteran.
The Marines also applied for permits to shoot on the Golden Gate Bridge that same morning, but were turned down because of similar traffic concerns.
The end result -- the crew didn't film the Marines in San Francisco at all. They had to go to the National Park Service for permission to shoot in Marin overlooking the bridge and at Kirby Cove.
"Golden Gate National Recreation Area is steeped in military tradition and we're honored to be a part of their continued military traditions so we're glad that we could accommodate the shoot," said Amy Brees with the National Park Service.
Captain Corrales and several other Marine veterans came to the Film Commission Monday afternoon. They see this as just the latest insult along with the city blocking the USS Iowa from docking here, banning the junior ROTC from high schools, and trying to ban the yearly Blue Angels air show.
"This -- a slap in the face of every veteran and every parent of men and women who are doing their duty -- is shameful," said Captain Corrales.
The Marines we spoke with also make the point that the city allows street demonstrations, anti-war protests and other events which snarl traffic, such as Critical Mass. They still don't understand why the Marines got turned away.
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