Hundreds take part in 'Freedom from Filner' rally, march

SAN DIEGO - Hundreds of people took part in a rally and march at City Hall on Sunday with a simple and very familiar demand: that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner resign or face being recalled.

The messages on their t-shirts and signs were different ways of saying one thing loud and clear.

"He's spending our money," said Robbie Green. "We want our money used for roadwork and the education system and we feel it's time for him to gracefully step down."

"He is wrong, wrong," said Tara Jones. "It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican, Democrat, liberal … you know, believe in God, don't believe in God, whatever the case may be … he is wrong."

Many said they had voted for Filner and now wish they had not.

"We have progressive people in San Diego that have the ability and the ethics to be mayor and be progressive and get things done," said one woman at the rally.

Attorney Gloria Allred talked about the dream of gender equality and had this message for Filner.

"In San Diego, you have turned that dream into a nightmare for the women of San Diego … many of whom are here with me today and that is why you must go," she said.

Long before the rally started, Jones pulled up with hundreds of shirts with the phrase "Please resign Mayor Filner."

"He is wrong and he does not need to be mayor at this time," she said. "It's just that simple."

Green told 10News, "This is about San Diego and the people that live in San Diego and want our tax dollars to go to the proper thing, not to support Bob Filner and his issues and he has a lot of issues," he said.

However, Filner did have a few supporters. Two men made banners saying that the effort to remove Filner was really a plot by U-T San Diego newspaper owner Doug Manchester. Manchester's paper supported Carl DeMaio, Filner's opponent, in last year's mayoral race.

The men say Filner should stay in office for another three years unless and until he's found guilty of something in a court of law. That opinion did not go over well with most people at the rally.

After the speeches, the group set off on a march around the Civic Center.

When they returned, many signed petitions -- the all-important path to a recall election should Filner decide to stay in office.

The recall drive needs to turn in 102,000 valid signatures by Sept. 26 to qualify for the ballot. Organizers say they got a couple hundred signatures on their petitions at Sunday's rally.

There were thanks for one of Filner's accusers.

"I made a mistake and voted for him," one woman told Peggy Shannon, the most recent woman to accuse Filner of sexual harassment. "I will do what I can and I am so sorry that happened to you."

So far, 16 women have accused Filner of sexual harassment, ranging accusations of unwanted advances to groping and kissing. He has apologized for mistreating women and sought treatment at a behavioral treatment center, but has denied that his actions constitute sexual harassment.

The list of alleged victims includes two municipal employees, including McCormack Jackson, who is being represented by Los Angeles women's rights attorney Allred and has sued Filner and the city, and two women who said Filner made passes at them last year at a meeting of veterans who were raped in the military. One of the complainants is a retired rear admiral. The most recent alleged victim is a great-grandmother. Allred is expected to speak at Sunday's rally.

In addition to sexual harassment, Filner has been accused of shaking down developers. 10News learned a subpoena was issued to Lee Burdick, Filner's chief of staff, to have her testify under oath and provide her notes about issues involving Sunroad Centrum Partners, a developer that  paid $100,000 to the city -- allegedly at the behest of Filner -- before its project was approved. The investigation is being conducted by the FBI.

Filner is also under scrutiny after a Team 10 investigation looked into a recent trip to Paris and his use of city credit cards at a downtown hotel.

The mayor said he went to Paris in June at the behest of the Organization of Iranian-American Communities, a group with which he was involved while a congressman. Last month, he said he would return $9,800 to the group because it wasn't properly registered as a nonprofit with the Internal Revenue Service.

While the city didn't pick up the cost of Filner's trip, members of his security detail racked up a bill estimated to be around $22,000 in public funds.

Team 10 reported that investigators have zeroed in on city credit card expenditures at The Westgate Hotel, located across the street from the City Administration Building.

All nine members of the City Council, both of California's senators and other local civic and business leaders have called for the mayor to step down immediately. He has refused.

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