On Monday, January 9, a TikTok video posted by Brioche Bakery in San Francisco captured a man spraying down an apparently unhoused woman on the sidewalk with a hose. The man, who was later identified as Collier Gwin of Foster Gwin Gallery on Montgomery Street, screamed at the woman to move as she cried for help from bystanders. The video has since been removed from TikTok but continued to circulate on Twitter, prompting outrage and indignation at one individual’s response to the city’s notorious homelessness crisis.
Gwin reportedly told police to ask the woman to move from the entrance of his business around 8:40am on Monday. According to a San Francisco Police Department statement provided to SFGATE, the woman complied with the official order to move from the entrance and situated herself on the sidewalk instead. But Gwin claimed to the news publication that the woman had not complied, resulting in his decision to hose her down. He told SFGATE he’d “do it again,” alleging that the woman had planted herself on the block for the last two weeks and prevented people from entering his gallery and other businesses on occasion.
Gwin claimed that he made several attempts to get the police involved since she began occupying the area, but the continuous efforts yielded no permanent results. The owner of the adjacent Barbarossa Lounge, Arash Ghanadan, corroborated Gwin’s claim, telling SFGATE that the SFPD was notified several times, and that they had responded to an unrelated incident with the woman as recently as last Friday, January 6.
Another video of a verbal confrontation between San Francisco-based writer Darren Mckeeman and Gwin surfaced on January 10, with Gwin alleging that the woman had been violent before. Neither Gwin nor the SFPD has responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, but police refuted Gwin’s claim that the woman had not complied with the police order in a follow-up report by SFGATE.
Gwin was not arrested during the “possible assault” incident, SFPD said, adding that both Gwin and the woman “declined further police action at that time.” SFPD’s investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Since Gwin has been identified, web users have inundated Foster Gwin Gallery’s Google and Yelp reviews with one-star ratings condemning what they describe as an act of violence and cruelty toward a vulnerable woman, pointing especially to the increased risk of hypothermia due to the recent weather conditions in the city. Foster Gwin Gallery has since deactivated its social media accounts and marked itself as permanently closed on Google Maps for the time being.
In an additional interview with CBS News, Gwin appeared to recant his original claim that he would “do it again,” apologizing for his actions. He mentioned that he has also been subjected to repeated death threats and vandalism to his gallery.
“What they saw is very regrettable,” Gwin told KPIX. “I feel awful, not just because I want to get out of trouble, or something like that, but because I’d put a tremendous amount of effort into helping this woman on the street.”
“I’m very, very sorry, I’m not going to defend myself, I’m not going to, because I can’t defend that,” Gwin added. He went on to say that he had to clean up several messes the woman left behind since she positioned herself on the block, and that she would knock over trash bins and her erratic behavior would scare away his clients. He also claimed that the woman was in need of psychiatric help and that the police and city workers said they weren’t able to forcibly move her.
“I’m out there once again cleaning her mess,” Gwin continued. “Washing it down, trying to clean up stuff, and I just snapped. I was watering around her, and I just snapped.”
Sadly, this isn’t the first time a San Francisco gallery owner has hosed down an unhoused person with water. With striking similarities, Don Soker of Don Soker Contemporary Art drew major criticism after he dumped buckets of water onto an unhoused woman and her belongings from the rooftop of his gallery’s venue in 2019.