San Francisco resident and gallerist Collier Gwin, 71, will be required to perform 35 hours of community service to wipe his record clean after spraying an unhoused woman with a garden hose on the sidewalk outside of his gallery in January. A video of Gwin hosing down the distressed woman and screaming at her to move as she cried out for help quickly circulated on social media, prompting criticism from activists across the Bay Area and throughout the nation. Gwin and the woman, known as “Q,” were both questioned onsite without being detained by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), but Gwin was formally arrested about a week after the January 9 incident on the basis of misdemeanor battery charges.
In an initial statement to local news outlet SFGATE, Gwin said he’d “do it again,” claiming that Q had situated herself on the Jackson Square block two weeks prior to the incident and was interfering with his business and others’ with her erratic behavior. Later, however, Gwin apologized for his actions and told CBS News that he had “snapped.”
Gwin said he had called the SFPD up to 25 times, seeking assistance as she reportedly blocked entrances on multiple occasions. The gallerist claimed that the incident unfolded when he called the SFPD to move Q from blocking the entrance to his Montgomery Street business, Foster Gwin Gallery, once again that morning. She reportedly complied and moved to the sidewalk instead, but had left a mess that Gwin said he was cleaning off with the garden hose before turning it on her after “she started screaming profanities” and became “very belligerent.”
According to the police report cited in a press release, Gwin and other local merchants on the block described Q as being “severely mentally ill,” stating that she would frequently “steal food from restaurants, defecate openly in front of their businesses, perform sex acts upon herself publicly, scream at merchants and passersby, and spit on people when they get close to her.” (Hyperallergic has reached out to the SFPD for clarity.)
The owner of the adjacent business corroborated Gwin’s claims regarding Q blocking entrances and expressed similar frustrations at the city’s inability to help her, but vehemently disagreed with Gwin’s approach to the situation. Foster Gwin Gallery was swarmed with negative reviews on Google and Yelp, and Gwin mentioned that the storefront had been vandalized and that he was subjected to threats of violence and death after the recorded incident went viral. Q was placed on an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric hold on January 11, just days after she had been sprayed by Gwin.
On January 12, artist and University of California, Berkeley professor Courtney Desiree Morris staged a 75-minute performance outside of Foster Gwin Gallery, both spiritually and physically cleansing the site where the hosing took place while reciting an anti-capitalist monologue sampling Bible psalms.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s office approved Gwin for a pretrial diversion consisting of 35 hours of community service with Reverend Dr. Amos C. Brown at the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco. Upon completion and contingent on Gwin complying with the existing restraining order prohibiting any further contact with Q, the misdemeanor battery charge will be dismissed and removed from the gallerist’s criminal record.
Reverend Brown spoke of the hosing incident to NBC Bay Area amidst the fallout in January, saying that he and Gwin had communicated extensively after the incident went viral. “Because the body politic of this city has not dealt with the issue of the unhoused in a comprehensive, holistic, compassionate way … we end up being in this kind of an unfortunate situation,” the Reverend told the news outlet, expressing that he disagreed with the charges against Gwin.
Reverend Brown said that he was “interested in restorative justice” rather than punitive justice, and that this incident could be a teachable moment. Neither Reverend Brown nor Gwin’s attorney immediately responded to Hyperallergic’s inquiry regarding what the 35 hours of community service might entail. In a press statement, Gwin said he was looking forward to his work with Reverend Brown.