Over the weekend, a shared social media post by United Educators of San Francisco Vice President Frank Lara that blamed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on NATO and the United States erupted in controversy, with multiple San Francisco lawmakers condemning Lara and hurting the already turbulent schooling situation in the city.
On February 24th, Lara reposted a statement by US Party for Socialism and Liberation member and journalist Leela Anand. In it, Anand not only accused of the US and NATO of starting the war, but said that they had used Ukraine to purposefully start a war.
“While we do not support the Russian invasion, we reserve our strongest condemnation for the U.S. government, which rejected Russia’s legitimate security concerns in the region, with total intransigence that they knew could provoke such a war,” said Anand’s post. “This is the consequence of decades of U.S.-NATO bullying and humiliating Russia.”
Many quickly tied the rhetoric of the article to Lara believing and supporting the notion. Calls for his resignation flooded in as a result during the weekend, with many taking the issue to social media.
The VP of San Francisco Teacher’s Union, Frank Lara, shared a post justifying Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, blaming it on the US and Ukraine. He should resign. This is unacceptable https://t.co/byWYlYUSQ9 pic.twitter.com/CusBBfWEvk
— Armand Domalewski (@ArmandDoma) February 26, 2022
State and local lawmakers quickly condemned Lara for sharing the post, with many pointing out multiple factual inaccuracies in Anand’s piece. Republicans and Democrats in the area united in condemnation, including Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) who questioned why Lara was supporting Russian propaganda.
“Fascist dictator Putin is trying to conquer Ukraine, a democracy,” said Senator Wiener in a tweet on Sunday. “He is creating a humanitarian disaster. So why on earth is the Executive Vice President of San Francisco’s teachers union (UESF) promoting Russian government propaganda?”
Fascist dictator Putin is trying to conquer Ukraine, a democracy. He is creating a humanitarian disaster.
So why on earth is the Executive Vice President of San Francisco’s teachers union (UESF) promoting Russian government propaganda? pic.twitter.com/i7JUziIB2H
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) February 27, 2022
Despite the mounting pressure against Lara and the union, the United Educators of San Francisco defended Lara on Monday, saying that the backlash against him was nothing more than “McCarthyite red-baiting” and an attempt to undermine the union’s leadership election from last year.
“This is a cynical effort by some in San Francisco to use the politics of fear and division to delegitimize Lara,” said the union in a statement on Monday. “This is 1950s McCarthyite red-baiting rearing its ugly head in 2022. The attack on Lara is an attempt to undermine the results of the union’s internal democratic election last spring.”
“Free speech is a pillar of the United States,” said William Lander, a free speech legal advisor in Washington, D.C. to the Globe on Monday. “What he said is upsetting and goes against what most people believe about the situation in Europe, but he does have the right to post something on Facebook he wants to share. From a legal standpoint, he did nothing wrong. In the history of this country we have had everything from Nazi party marches to communist rallies be protected by the first amendment. It wasn’t from an organization letterhead or anything like that. It was his personal page. Legally, nothing wrong. Now from a social standpoint, that’s different.”
Many commentators noted however, that Lara’s tweets, regardless of free speech, were only proving to be more damaging to the school situation in the city.
“This year San Francisco schools have to deal with budget issues, 3 board members being recalled, getting nationally scrutinized for their actions, and now, a top teachers union official appearing to be blaming the Russian attack on Ukraine on the U.S. and it’s allies,” explained San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke to the Globe on Monday. “It’s not even March. It’s like the schools here are having their policies and unions and everything working in tandem with TV show writers to create a crazy season or something. Every week it’s something.
“With public sympathy around the world largely on Ukraine’s side, especially in the U.S., with the U.S. and NATO being applauded for helping Ukraine out as much as possible while also sticking with their own rules, statements out of left field like this are not treated well. I mean, you have [Senator] Wiener bashing it. I don’t know what will happen with Lara, but for the schools, this is just another punch to the face this year. And the match is far from over.”
As of Monday, Lara has not responded for comment from numerous outlets, including the Globe.
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