‘Reckless and selfish’: San Francisco mayor condemns huge crowds at unofficial Burning Man gathering

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San Francisco‘s mayor has condemned a crowd of revellers who defied Covid-19 social distancing guidelines to attend a beach party over the weekend to celebrate the cancelled Burning Man festival, saying the gathering “put people’s lives at risk”.

“This was absolutely reckless & selfish,” mayor Breed wrote in a statement published on Twitter on Sunday evening. “You are not celebrating. You are putting our progress at risk. No one is immune from spreading the virus,” the Democrat politician added.

Video and images posted to social media on Saturday showed large groups of party-goers gathered at Ocean Beach to celebrate what would have been the 34th year of Burning Man, a festival usually held in the Nevada desert close to Labor Day.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed 189,000 US lives, this year’s festival was cancelled. But a crowd of around 1,000 people were determined to have a party regardless, with revellers seen desecending on the popular beach throughout the evening.

Images showed party-goers dancing and drinking on the beach, while gathered close together in large groups. Many of those in attendance did not appear to be wearing face coverings.  

According to San Franciso public health guidance, residents are encouraged to stay home as much as possible, wear face coverings and avoid gatherings. When public gatherings do take place, they should be attended by no more than 12 people, the guidance adds.

California is one of the hardest-hit states with coronavirus in the US. Officials have reported some 740,000 cases and recorded more than 13,000 deaths, according to official figures.

San Francisco county has had 9,839 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 86 deaths.  

Ms Breed said she had ordered authorities to close car parking spaces at the beach on Sunday to deter people from gathering for a second night. She also said police would patrol the area, which is located about seven miles northwest Downtown San Diego.

“We know people love Burning Man & people want to get together this weekend. But we all need to do our part. Stay home, stay safe.” Ms Breed added.

Burning Man is a festival that has been held each year in the US since its inception in 1986 and was celebrated online this year due to the pandemic. The event normally takes place at Black Rock Desert, near Nevada, but the first ever gathering is recorded as having taken place at San Francisco’s Baker beach, when the artist Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James burned an effigy as crowds gathered to watch.

Posts on social media appeared to show a much smaller party at that beach on Saturday.  

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