San Francisco: The operator of a San Francisco art gallery who is suspected of dousing a homeless woman with water has posted what appears to be a defiant confession on social media.
The June 22 incident in the Mission District has sparked local outrage and led to a police investigation.
A post from the Facebook account of Don Soker -- his actual name -- casts the incident as his exasperated attempt to get a hostile transient to move farther from the entrance to his business.
A widely circulated 10-second clip shows a bald, older man dumping a bucket of water from the roof of a two-story brick building onto a tent and assorted belongings about six feet from a wooden door. It's not clear whether a homeless person is among the belongings or standing nearby.
"I was told by a visitor to my business that she was harassed by the woman camping directly next to the building door," Soker's post states. "When I asked her to move I was roundly cursed. Forget calling police or 311 so what's so bad about a cold shower on a hot day?
"Also I have never done this before and she simply moved down to the next building," he added.
Soker did not respond to an email or phone call from The Times, but KPIX-TV reported Soker had denied involvement when the San Francisco station interviewed him two days earlier.
"I don't know who it was," the station quoted Soker as saying. "Probably it was some people from the place next door who were doing some work on the roof ... because they also had access to it."
At the time, KPIX-TV agreed to Soker's request not to be identified, but unfolding developments prompted the station to disclose his identity.
The landlord of the property and a maintenance person told the station that no work was underway on the roof at the time of the incident.
Soker responded briefly by text to an inquiry from a writer for the San Francisco Examiner.
"Sorry but this thing has gotten completely out of hand and I'm not going to contribute to any more political correct bs," Soker reportedly messaged the writer.
Soker is a longtime figure in the local arts scene, having operated a gallery for more than 40 years. Exhibitions at Don Soker Contemporary Art frequently appear in cultural listings, and the quality of the displays has generated positive write-ups for the artists with whom he works.
I was told by a visitor to my business that she was harassed by the woman camping directly next to the building door. When I asked her to move I was roundly cursed. Forget calling police or 311 so what's so bad about a cold shower on a hot day?
On his Facebook page, Soker notes that he is married, from Toledo, Ohio, and studied at Sonoma State and at Miami University. On his page, there appears to be no acknowledgment of the dousing -- the posts relate to art events, striking images and observations, for which he typically receives positive feedback. But now critics of his alleged actions have started to fill up the timeline.
His apparent disclosure was a response in a thread on the page of Spike Kahn, who identifies herself as the founder and director of Pacific Felt Factory arts center. In a Thursday Facebook post, Kahn directly accused Soker, an accusation that resulted in condemnations of Soker by other commenters.
When Soker apparently responded, he first took on Kahn: "Not to put too fine a point on Kahn's oligarchic sins of omission on reverse gentrification but the complainants and she live in expensive buildings with security that prevents homeless encampment."
He then explained his actions, which prompted furious responses.
Local news reported that the Coalition on Homelessness demanded an apology and more.
"Mr. Soker not only needs to give a public apology but also should pay damages to the women he terrorized with water buckets," said Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the coalition. "Having yourself and your gear soaked with water when you don't have a home to get warm and dry is no joke."
Soker -- or someone posting from his page -- responded twice more Friday evening: "Look out this is just what is needed. A confrontation between the former liberal, now socially accepted wealthy gentrificated locals and against those locals who were unable to achieve such a level of hypocrisy."
Soon after, there's a post from Soker downplaying the seriousness of the incident: "It was on the tent if you watch the video."