If you attended the Pink Saturday community meeting last night, and never participated in the relatively unregulated street party that happens every year on Castro Street the night before the SF Pride Parade, you might believe that there is no LGBT presence at one of the biggest LGBT parties of the year.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence asked for community input on the future of Pink Saturday after an assault on one of their own happened at 18th and Castro Street during primetime of the party this year. Word on the street is that the Sisters either want to distance themselves from the event or cancel it altogether (if that is within their power), although that wasn’t an explicitly stated goal last night.
The meeting was well attended—standing room only at times—in the Eureka Valley Rec Center. Two hours were established for public comment on the event. While the time limit was strictly adhered to, there wasn’t an agenda or any stated goal to the meeting.
There were a few opening remarks from Sisters directly involved in planning the event. Scott Wiener shared insight as the representative of the district on the SF Board of Supervisors (after thumping his chest about the new trees shoved into the ground as part of the never-ending neighborhood beautification project). Representatives from the SF Police Department and a few neighborhood patrol groups were present. Members of the public were asked to focus on offering suggestions and to avoid complaining. Consequently, thinly-veiled racism was couched inside resentment against the aging process.
In other words, the room was full of white gay guys over the age of 50 that are annoyed that LGBT culture is changing and leaving them behind.
Perhaps that sounds harsh, but the recurring theme of the community meeting was about “outsiders” sneaking in to queer space when they have no right or (legitimate) interest in being there. One fellow, a self-identified DJ, told the crowd that he heard rap and/or hip hop music at times: “Songs about dicks going into pussies has nothing to do with gay pride.” Another claimed that the crowd at Pink Saturday is worse than the attendees at Mardi Gras—and he has been to both!!
Of course, the increase in violence is not the fault of the SF Police Department. While giving Supervisor Wiener a hand job in front of the room (he is the ONLY politician that understands them), Officer Tony Orlando (formerly performing with Dawn) told the room that the force is understaffed! He heard that aggressive music too! He saw known gang members from BAYVIEW lurking at the fringes of the party! A local hip-hop radio station promotes Pink Saturday and encourages “them” to show up, then “they” go on Instagram to tell others!
Honest to gawd.
As the meeting passed the one-hour mark, voices of reason began to emerge. Rather polite and thoughtful comments were made suggesting that not all young people in attendance were drunk or on drugs or straight or murderers and it’s entirely possible that some of those hip-hop aficionados might be—gasp—gay too.
Some concrete suggestions were aired, but this is clearly a complex dilemma for the neighborhood. Unlike Halloween (another unregulated street event that struggled with incidents of violence and was ultimately killed with the help of then-supervisor Bevan Dufty, who was not in attendance last night), Pink Saturday is a penultimate event that takes place while hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are in San Francisco to celebrate.
Not even booking Kenny G to perform on a stage at Market and Castro Street is going to discourage rowdy behavior.
Current President of the Board of SF Pride, Gary Virginia, offered real insight into the struggles that the Pride Board faces and how those difficulties are very similar to what the Sisters are dealing with on Pink Saturday. The problem is money. Mr. Virgina explained that the City of San Francisco has been the recipient of millions of dollars of tax revenue over multiple decades that can be directly traced to tourism during the month of June.
Pride month in San Francisco is packed with parties, cultural events, a film festival, and three huge political marches that fill hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. What does the City provide to the organizers of these lucrative revenue generating events in return for the windfall? Not very much.
In fact, SF Pride receives $80,000 from the City. The Sisters get nothing from the City for the work they do to organize Pink Saturday. Neither organization is looking to profit but they both could use resources from the city that has reaped uncounted millions of dollars from the LGBT community to better manage these events.
By the time Mr. Virginia made his factual and reasoned point to the room, Supervisor Wiener had already left to attend another event.
At 8pm, the meeting abruptly ended without a mention of next steps or further planning meetings. Hopefully someone will find a way to close down the Church and Castro Street Muni stations so that people who don’t belong in the neighborhood are prevented from getting in.
Unfortunately, that was the message delivered from the community last night.