SAN DIEGO -- Several dozen supporters of Mayor Bob Filner rallied Thursday afternoon outside City Hall, saying the mayor deserves due process and that none of the allegations against him about sexually harassing women have been proved.
The supporters, saying that Filner should not give in to demands that he resign, recalled his long support for African Americans, Latinos, Filipino veterans of World War II, gays and working families, among other groups.
Many of the supporters were from blue-collar neighborhoods south of Interstate 8, Filner’s political stronghold during his long political career on the school board, City Council and for 20 years in Congress before being elected as mayor in November.
Speakers said that while they vigorously oppose sexual harassment, no charges have been proved, or even formally lodged, against the 70-year-old Democrat. Several said that many in minority communities can sympathize with the mayor’s situation.
“Latinos and African Americans have often been the victims of a rush to judgment when it comes to allegations of wrongdoing,” Terri Valladolid, a member of the Southwestern Community College board of trustees, told the gathering.
Immigrant rights activist Enrique Morones noted that Thursday is the birthday of Nelson Mandela. Filner, Morones said, is like Mandela in his support for human dignity even in the face of establishment opposition.
Minutes before the rally, Filner issued a statement, which Morones read to the crowd and the television cameras: “My appointed staff and I will continue to improve America’s Finest City. Whether it’s attending internal or external events, for constituents or staff, I understand that the City’s work comes first.”
Bishop George McKinney, pastor of the predominantly African American St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ, said that Filner’s decades of support for civil rights should not be forgotten.
A statement was read from the hospitalized Nicole Ramirez-Murray, an activist for gay rights and veterans benefits. The statement picked up the same theme: “His decades of public service are being lost in this current discussion.”
The comments could be a foreshadowing of the debate that could occur if opponents seek to recall Filner. The mayor’s detractors plan a rally for Friday to gauge public support for beginning a recall, a process that is difficult and costly.
Meanwhile, Filner kept out of sight Thursday.
Except for brief interviews with two San Diego television stations and Univision, he has not been seen in public since allegations surfaced last week that he had sexually harassed staff members and constituents. He issued a video last week apologizing for treating women badly and admitted: “I need help.”