I'm glad that I'm not a professional historian because if I were, I might have to find some other way to express this: Dennis Kearney* was an utter ass-wipe. An immigrant himself, Kearney founded California's briefly influential (and highly racist) Workingman's Party. He made a political career out of the thoughtful slogan, "The Chinese Must Go". His fiery speeches were quite radical – he advocated lynching of wealthy business owners – but he wasn't marginal. His political ally, Isaac Kalloch, became San Francisco's mayor in 1879.
That is disturbing, but not surprising. Here's the crazy part: in the 1870s, the founder and editor of the Chronicle, Charles de Young, railed against Kearney and Kalloch (then only a mayoral candidate) in his paper. I haven't read the editorials directly – anyone know of where I can find those archives online?
Kalloch survived, and won the election in part because of the sympathy he garnered for his injury, but a year later his son, defending the family honor, fatally shot de Young. He admitted to the shooting but got off free. Fortunately, Kearney's Workingman's Party faded shortly thereafter, but Kalloch did fine, serving two years as mayor.
*Note that Wikipedia reveals that Kearny Street, which runs right through Chinatown in SF is not actually named after Dennis Kearney. This information comes as a relief, but I wasn't too excited to learn who it was named after: Stephen Kearny, who founded of the US Cavalry and used those troops to expand white US occupation into Native American homelands in the Western part of the continent. He went on to command a number of battalions in the Mexican-American War, winning California for the US of A, which, I imagine, is why he got a street named after him in San Francisco. Related: we can also breathe a sigh of relief that Geary street is named after a former postmaster, not California Congressman Thomas Geary, who wrote an 1892 law extending the Chinese Exclusion Act, and expanding it to require Chinese-Americans to carry permits at all times, or risk deportation or punishment by hard labor. His act also denied habeus corpus to imprisoned Chinese-Americans, removing their rights to ask a judge to review the legality of their detentions. If you want to know who any other SF streets are not named for, look at this site.