Professional and college reporters training collaboratively for the future of Bay Area journalism. Bay News Rising is a project of the Pacific Media Workers Guild made possible by the labor and contributions of its members.
By Zak Cowan and Mariana Raschke
Bay News Rising Reporters
The sandstone was draped in rainbow as the attendees cuddled around the caviar stands, sipping sparkling wine and indulging in the splendor of San Francisco Pride — all within the confines of the city’s Beaux Arts City Hall.
Thousands celebrated in downtown San Francisco for Pride 2016. Surprisingly, the heightened security concerns this year created no great problems — and may have even had a positive impact by limiting crowd sizes and separating intimate mingling zones.
“The metal detectors are crowd control,” said Jimmy Tran, 62, around noon Sunday at Civic Center. “It’s not packed in here, yet.”
It was a very San Francisco kind of scene, somber yet joyous. One participant, nearly naked, had written the names of the Orlando 49 on his bare skin. All the different areas of the celebration – separated by security perimeters – offered different ambiances, like the city’s own neighborhoods, or the shops at Macy’s.
Greg Lam, born and raised in the city, had no complaints about being cordoned off in the grand old City Hall building. It had been booked for a VIP reception, and it wasn’t hard to feel special inside, even if most of the sunshine stayed outside.
“We’re in here, drinking Champagne and eating caviar, and everyone else is melting in the heat drinking Bud Light,” Lam said.
The three distinct attractions at San Francisco Pride – the parade down Market Street, the celebration at Civic Center and the party inside City Hall – were all part of the “For Racial and Economic Justice” theme chosen by the Pride Celebration Committee.
A heavy police presence was out in response to the Orlando shooting.
Bag checks and metal detectors created long lines. Weapons were banned and alcohol restricted.
Officers in uniform and undercover were stationed across the parade and the civic center plaza, while spotters watched from rooftops. A SWAT team, deployed just in case, attracted some attention, but for the most part security blended in and seemed to be no big deal.
Police reported only a few disturbances, most of them minor, given the size of the crowd. On Tuesday, however, word came of two more serious alleged offenses, according to a story at SFGate.com: Emmaunel Morancy, 50, was charged with a hate-crime attack and booked at County Jail after allegedly pushing a woman and a friend while threatening violence on account of their sexual orientation.
Separately, police told SFGate, a 25-year-old San Francisco resident was hit by a projectile evidently fired from a pellet gun about midnight Sunday in the Mission District. The victim had been walking on 22nd Street in the when car drove by, a man in the front seat yelled a homophobic insult, and the victim heard a “bang.”
Later on Sunday, when the actual Pride events were under way, police had little to do much of the day but watch and serve as backdrops for group selfies. More than a few of the cops snapped selfies of their own.
There were no reported disturbances of note. A couple of groups pulled out in advance, including a Black Lives Matter organization, to protest the police. But Officer Mark Lopez said the authorities only were trying “to make people feel safe.”
Tony Roug, owner of Hot Cookie in the Castro district, said he had no problem with that. He was more concerned about people finding their way to his shop.
“Security is fine this year,” Roug said. “But I think the parade should pass by the Castro district instead of just downtown.”
Lloyd Fishback, one of several nudists in the parade, wore a costume that left nothing to the imagination.
“The event is a lot smaller this year than it has been in the past, which is a little depressing,” he said.
But even he did lots of smiling as he let whoever wanted take photos with him.
Along Market Street, parade viewers had many choices for necessities. Vendors sold Budweiser from ice-filled trashcans. Others pushed shopping carts offering bottles of water. There was even a “Rice Crispy Treats N’ Swisher Sweets” stand.
In City Hall, attendees could help themselves to any of the food and drink without limits. It was all included in the $50 ticket price.
“The drags in here are great,” said Michael Curtz as he took a sip of craft beer and pondered the local talent. “I’m glad I’m not outside in the heat with all those penises out for a tan.”
Outside, though, despite the sun beating down on bare skin rarely exposed in full daylight, the mood was festive and forgiving.
“It’s disgusting out here,” said Sara Pitts of Santa Cruz. “Everyone is sweaty and drunk…. It’s fun, though.”