A man has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) during his visit to downtown Oakland, authorities said Friday.
Newsom was walking to a barbershop and pizzeria on Washington Street in Old Oakland to promote small businesses when he was “approached by an aggressive individual,” said Fran Clader, director of communications for the California Highway Patrol, which provides security for the governor.
Officers removed Newsom from the situation and arrested the 54-year-old man, she said.
Newsom did not appear injured, the East Bay Times reported, and quipped to reporters that different people have different ways of saying hello. The assailant allegedly threw a water bottle at the governor, according to law enforcement sources who spoke to the East Bay Times.
The man was taken to Alameda County jail, where he was booked for investigation of resisting an executive officer and assaulting a public official.
Reached by phone, a woman who identified as the suspect’s sister described him as a homeless man with severe mental health problems. She said the allegation made by authorities was “consistent with his past behavior.”
Friday’s assault highlights the growing homeless problem in California. Last month, Newsom announced a plan to spend $12 billion to combat the homelessness crisis as part of his $100 billion “California Comeback Plan.”
The California Democrat has defended his record on this issue in response to national criticism from Republicans. However, the homeless problem has continued to grow in the Golden State, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Alameda County where Oakland is located. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2019 that Oakland’s homeless population rose 47 percent in a two-year period. Last month, a group of Oakland residents built a “community center” at a homeless camp under a highway overpass.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s latest budget includes a request for $1 billion to stem the homeless epidemic in the city. The San Francisco city and county website estimated the number of homeless individuals to be over 8,000 in 2019, but some sources have estimated the number to be as high as 17,000, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Last month it was reported that San Francisco is spending $16.1 million for 262 tents to house the homeless in empty lots around the city in what officials call “safe sleeping villages.” The cost of this endeavor breaks down to $190 a night or $61,000 per tent per year.
California’s homeless crisis has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, San Francisco officials housed the city’s homeless population in city-leased hotels and even distributed alcohol, tobacco, medical marijuana, and other substances in order to keep the quarantined homeless from leaving the hotels to obtain these substances on the street.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.