Activists Go After Blue City Deli Owner For Sharing Photos Of Fentanyl Crisis

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Laurel Duggan Social Issues and Culture Reporter
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The owner of Deli Board, a San Francisco sandwich shop, has drawn the ire of activists for sharing photographs and stories of fentanyl users on the streets near his shop, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Adam Mesnick frequently encounters individuals who have overdosed on fentanyl and other drugs in his neighborhood, a problem he says picked up around 2018, according to the Chronicle. After he offers medical assistance and, if necessary, calls 911, he often takes the person’s picture and shares it to his 17,000-follower Twitter account, @bettersoma, but activists have called for boycotts of his store and accused him of dehumanizing the subjects in the photos.

At least 346 people have died of drug overdoses this year in San Francisco, most of them from fentanyl, according to the Chronicle. The city’s homeless population also skyrocketed from 12,249 to 19,086 from 2016 to 2020 and has worsened since the pandemic.

Mesnick told the outlet that people who are “so compassionate” walk past overdose victims and ignore them, while he actually pays attention to them. (RELATED: Honduran Drug Dealers Love San Francisco’s Immigration Laws)

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 05: A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk near San Francisco City Hall on December 05, 2019 in San Francisco, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to release $650 million in emergency aid that will allocated to California cities and counties in an effort to combat the state's homelessness crisis. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 05: A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk near San Francisco City Hall on December 05, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“That’s really the problem here,” he said. “People continue not to look. And I look.”

His Twitter posts are often sarcastic and critical of city policies allowing open drug use and homeless encampments.

“When they say compassion I say nope,” he captioned a photograph of an apparent homeless person slumped over in a wheelchair after consuming drugs.

“It’s not poverty if they all have money for drugs,” he captioned a video of homeless people apparently under the influence of drugs.

Mesnick, who is Jewish and a registered Democrat, has been accused of white supremacy and of fueling conservative outrage for drawing attention to the problems plaguing San Francisco, according to the Chronicle. His statements that the city has a drug problem, not a homeless problem, have drawn criticism from homeless advocates in the area.

“He may have good intentions, but it just ends up creating a lot of toxicity,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, a group that Mesnick has challenged on Twitter, told the outlet. “It’s very difficult to recover while you remain homeless.”

Mesnick opened Deli Board in 2009 after losing his home and his job amid a struggle with alcohol abuse, according to the Chronicle. He eventually stopped drinking and kicked his Xanax addiction and has since become involved in community improvement initiatives, including a nonprofit he founded which cleaned up a million pounds of trash last year.

Mesnick says the anger with him is misdirected, according to the Chronicle.

“The fuel that moves me is the boycotts, the opposition,” he said. “I become responsible because there’s no one else to blame.”

Mesnick couldn’t be reached for comment.

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