LGBTQ progressives are preparing to tear down San Francisco Pride’s corporate rainbows.
Two protesters who linked arms with protesters to halt this year’s parade were charged with misdemeanor crimes on Wednesday, sparking further condemnation of the Pride Board. At the same time, a candidate for the Pride Board, clamoring for change, and defending the protesters, is hoping to steer the annual parade towards true resistance.
“For too many years, San Francisco has chosen to ignore a safer Pride without police,” one protester, Zedgar Infiniti said at the parade. “They brutally arrested several trans people over the past years. We ask for the police to release every trans (person) from San Francisco’s jail.”
Taryn Saldivar, 21, of Oakland and Kenneth Bilecki, 27, of Santa Rosa, were arrested and have been charged with battery of an officer and obstruction of a parade. Both are misdemeanor charges.
Alex U. Inn, a stylish drag king performer and local activist, led 2017’s “Resistance” contingent in the San Francisco Pride parade, even as the Pride Board pushed back. U. Inn is a former Pride community grand marshal.
Now, U. Inn wants to rally the Pride Board into action by running for it. Three seats are open for the September 21 election at the organization’s annual general meeting.
“This particular board, out of all the Pride boards I know around our country and abroad, misses the mark, and they miss it often,” U. Inn told me, Wednesday.
U. Inn’s top priorities include shrinking the corporate presence at SF Pride by pairing companies with non-profits to raise the visibility of marginalized groups. U.Inn also wants police to not form human barricades around the parade, which run counter to Pride’s ethos, they said.
“My point is, if you’re going to do our duty that day to keep us safe, that’s great,” U.Inn said. But, “Where is it that you have to march step by step with us? What does that mean? It means you’re just trying to contain us and that has to stop.”
In a statement defending their actions, and the arrested protesters, SF Pride wrote, “San Francisco Pride is not a decision-maker in whether or not the DA decides to continue with the charges. We want to make it clear that we have encouraged the DA to drop all charges related to this incident.”
Still, U. Inn assailed the Pride Board for their past and present failures.
The Pride Board failed to immediately support Saldivar and Bilecki, U.Inn argued, but have also failed to take strong stances even as far back as the 2015 #MyNameIs resistance of Facebook’s “real name” policy, that forced people along the LGBTQ spectrum, and others, to not use their chosen names on the social media platform.
Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who led the #MyNameIs resistance, told me they whole-heartedly back U.Inn’s candidacy. “Alex is very passionate and has a finger on the pulse of everything that’s happening in the queer community,” Roma said. “I think we need to find out how to listen to the community and address their concerns and have transparency about decisions they make.”
Those decisions have historically been as tough to parse as a leather-enthusiast speaking through a ball gag.
Even when U. Inn wanted Pride to take a stand against President Donald Trump’s bigotry in 2017, the board balked, and instead opted to protect its corporate sponsors, who wrap themselves in rainbows in exchange for dropping dollars on the parade.
And this year, when roughly 150 LGBTQ Google employees and their allies signed a statement against their company, Pride again failed to take any action against their sponsor. The group, called “Ban Google from Pride,” cited Google-owned YouTube’s recent action to protect a content creator who aired hate-speech against a gay journalist from Vox as hypocritical to Google’s public statements of LGTBQ support.
U.Inn, and others, have had enough.
“The SF Pride Board had a number of opportunities this summer to take a stand for our community,” Ban Google From Pride told me, in a statement. “They have failed to do so.”
The Pride Board did hold a little-promoted press conference this week to call on District Attorney George Gascon to not file charges against the protesters. But they only did so after a few Jiminy Crickets from Abolish ICE, and other groups, voiced their consciences at the Pride Board’s July 17 meeting, according to those who attended it.
William Walker, who sits on the Pride Board and is up for election this year, took a stand and called on his fellow members to back a press conference calling on the District Attorney to drop the charges. After some grumbling, they did so — but it took wrangling on what U.Inn and others say should’ve been an automatic “yes.”
And SF Pride did issue a written statement asking for charges to be dropped immediately after the parade. But in the political world, posting a weak statement on a website is a far different thing than clamoring for change on your feet, with your voice, loudly.
The District Attorney’s Office defended those charges.
“Prosectors analyze the facts as it applies to the law,” Max Szabo, a District Attorney’s Office spokesperson, said in a statement. “We welcome feedback but the first amendment right to freedom of speech does not grant anyone the freedom to batter a police officer or any member of the community.”
To effect change, U. Inn rallied friends and allies to join SF Pride with a paid membership, as those are the only people who can vote. Voters also must be SF Pride members for 60 days before the election, which made the cutoff to join Wednesday of this week, according to SF Pride.
U. Inn is confident they can secure needed votes to effect change.
“This pride board is the voice of the people and they don’t act that way,” they said.
But next year’s SF Pride parade may march to an entirely different beat.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.