As San Francisco gears up for Pride weekend, some in the LGBT community are worried that the celebration — sponsored this year by Budweiser, Zynga, Virgin America and other big-time brands — has lost touch with its origins as a protest for queer rights.
“I think the corporatization, the commercialization of pride has really gotten out of hand,” said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a longtime activist and Castro district resident. “I think they’re really consciously trying to buy favor in the community.”
This year, Avicolli Mecca and other activists are organizing OccuPride, a series of protest actions inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and loosely affiliated with Occupy San Francisco. While there have been unsanctioned protests at Pride in previous years, Avicolli Mecca said this year activists had more to be angry about.
“I don’t know why the people at Pride are taking money from banks this year,” Avicolli Mecca said, referring to Wells Fargo and Bank of America, which are listed as sponsors for the San Francisco Pride Celebration & Parade and have drawn fire from the anti-Wall Street movement for foreclosing on homeowners. “I know that Pride needs money, but there’s other ways to get money.”
While organizers would not reveal specifics about their planned actions, they are asking supporters to join them for a march starting at Mission and Main streets at 10 a.m. Sunday.
“We have a list of targets and we’ll be doing different actions,” said organizer Craig Rouskey. “We’re not attacking the Pride parade. We’re not attacking the committee that puts it together. We’re not attacking our family on the floats.”
OccuPride is not the only group offering an alternative to the main parade for people who feel that Pride has become too commercial. The Trans March will head from Dolores Park to U.N. Plaza on Friday, and the San Francisco Dyke March will wend from Dolores Park to the Castro on Saturday. A rally at the site of the former Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderloin on Sunday afternoon will commemorate the historic rebellion by transgender women against San Francisco police. On Sunday, during the main parade, Pride at Work, an LGBT group affiliated with organized labor, will protest discrimination against transgender people by health insurers.
“Pride came from trying to end discrimination against our community,” said Pride at Work organizer Sasha Wright. “San Francisco is known as a gay mecca, but I feel like there’s many issues that need to be highlighted.”