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San Francisco votes to allow people to sue if someone makes a 911 call against them

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Shamann Walton
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New legislation designed to avoid 911 calls viewed as “racist” has stirred up resistance from individuals who feel that their acronym may fan the flames of stereotyping against the callers.

The Caution Against Racist and Exploitative Non-Emergency (CAREN) Act, passed unanimously during its first reading on Tuesday at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, would make 911 calls with alleged racial undertones illegal, allowing those affected by such calls to sue.

Critics, however, claim that the connotations of the measure regarding the name “Karen” may contribute to more false assumptions surrounding white people, particularly women named Karen, who call 911.

“The name of the ordinance is a play on ‘Karen,’ the name of social media offers people making racially discriminatory 911 calls,” CNN said. “And it’s not just ‘Karen.’ There are also names like ‘Becky,’ which has also come to symbolise a whiteness stereo. And ‘Susan.’ And ‘Chad.’

“Today, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the First Reading Warning Against Racist and Exploitative Non-Emergency Act, known as the CAREN Act (1 more reading next week),” said City Supervisor Shamann Walton, who introduced the legislation in July.

Walton said, “911 calls are not customer service for people’s bigotry.”

Today, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the Precaution Against Racist and Exploitative Non-Emergency Act, known as the CAREN Act, in the first reading (1 more reading next week), 911 calls, not customer service for people’s prejudice. # CARENact:/t.co/FWCz95gGFU

The day the bill was adopted, co-author Matt Haney tweeted, “The CAREN Act makes it illegal to generate inaccurate racially biassed emergency reports. Racist false storeys put people at risk and the misuse of money.

I entered today as co-author of the @shamannwalton CAREN Act (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergency Act).

The CAREN Act makes it illegal to create fraudulent racially biassed emergency reports.

Racist false storeys put people in jeopardy and the wasting of money.

CNN confirmed that Walton’s and Haney’s plans are identical to Assembly Bill 1550, a state-wide measure introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta of California’s 18th Assembly District.

Bonta tweeted in July that, together, the two bills are a “two-pronged strategy for joining forces and avoiding biassed 911 calls.”

“It is unfair and wrong to use 911 as a weapon for your discrimination against vulnerable groups! “The Bonta said.

Excited to announce our collaboration with @shamannwalton! Today, we launched our two-pronged plan for joining together and avoiding biassed 911 calls: # AB1550 and # CARENAct. Using 911 as a weapon for your discrimination against oppressed people is wrong and wrong! Pic.twitter.com / NBfBaL6x2

In a June news release, Bonta ‘s office reported that the intent of the bill was not to discourage the legitimate use of the 911 system.

“The purpose of AB 1550 is not to prevent people who are facing immediate danger or who seek to report a crime in good faith from calling 911,” the release said. “Instead, this bill will shield millions of Californians from being objects of bigotry and discourage our law enforcement from arming communities of colour.”

Do you think this rule would be violated if it were to come into force?

The Hill reported that under Walton and Haney’s proposed legislation, “a person might sue a 911 caller if the call made a person feel threatened, hurt their credibility or business opportunities or forced them to leave the place where they had the right to be.

“In addition to racial discrimination, a person may also be targeted because of their sex, age, religion, disability, gender identity, weight or height,” according to The Hill.

“Multiple cases of white people calling 911 to people of colour have gone viral this year, with the word ‘Karen’ being used to describe white women who use the police to target members of other races,” the outlet added.

“These incidents come in the midst of demonstrations against racial injustice and police violence inflamed by the police shootings of Black Americans like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rashard Brooks.”

CNN, meanwhile, referred to her article about a white North Carolina Hampton Inn employee who called the Black Family Police to report a trespass after seeing children swimming alone in the hotel pool, while the mother allegedly charged her mobile phone in her car.

The mother captured her encounters with the police on Facebook Live, allegedly refusing to give them her name and room number when asked, and instead of flashing her hotel key card.

The woman told CNN that the employee was not asking any people who were using the pool.

Following the incident, Hampton Hilton tweeted an apology confirming that the employee was no longer working for the company.

Hampton by Hilton has no tolerance for racism or bigotry of any sort. Pic.twitter.com/1Wc7uidoU

CNN also reported a May storey that occurred in the Ramble section of Central Park in New York City. The incident involved a black man who said he was a bird-watcher who harassed a woman for walking her dog without a leash.

The conflict worsened after he started filming her on Facebook Live, refusing to stop when she asked him to do so. On the video, she told him she was going to call 911 and “tell them that an African-American man is threatening my life.”

The woman, Amy Cooper, was fired from her job following a viral altercation and later charged with falsely reporting a third-degree incident.

Not everybody supports the draught bill of the Board of Supervisors.

“The name of the act puts the target on my name as racist, and I am not,” wrote a white woman named Caren in a letter to the board. “It’s very insulting by associating the name ‘Caren’ or someone else’s name with such a rule.”

“I have no opposition to this act; the problem it is seeking to fix is incorrect,” said another dissident. “I strongly object to the … name. The offensive preference of many people to use the name Karen as a general term of disdain for middle-aged white women needs to be stopped.

The dissenter added that the acronym “has a huge negative effect on so many decent women with that name.”

Others tweeted their disappointment with the bill from Walton and Haney in July.

Cool, but can’t we name it after a meme that explicitly targets women?

I’m in support of the act, but it’s a misogynous and perjorative term. You can do better than that, I ‘m sure.

Similar legislation was proposed or adopted in Los Angeles, Oregon and New York.

CNN announced that the Board will take its second vote on the bill in the coming week, and if it passes, the Democratic Mayor of London Breed will decide whether or not to sign the bill.

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