Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Meeting about Pink Saturday set

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Crowds spilled into Market Street during Pink Saturday in 2009. In the background, the lighted pink triangle is visible on Twin Peaks. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Organizers of the annual Pink Saturday street festival, officials associated with the pre-Pride fundraising party in the Castro, and community members are set to meet next week to discuss the future of the event, which has been marred by assaults and other violence in recent years.

Members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, gay Supervisor Scott Wiener – whose District 8 includes the Castro – and police staff will be on hand at the meeting, which will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday, September 10 at Eureka Valley Recreation Center, 100 Collingwood Street. Among other issues, safety, costs, and "options for the evolution of the event should the Sisters plan to host the event in 2015," will be explored, according to Wiener's office.

Expressing fatigue with the problems facing the party, some Sisters have raised the possibility of giving up control of the June event, which has been organized by the group for 16 years and raises thousands of dollars for charities.

Sister Mora Lee D'Klined, whose real name is Kevin Roberts, is abbess and president of the Sisters. Roberts said the meeting is meant "to flesh out whether the Sisters even host Pink Saturday again. ... If the end result cannot be a fun, queer-centric, safe event, then the Sisters most likely will not host the event again" and "we will turn it back over to the city. We don't want to be responsible for people getting hurt or getting killed."

Concerns about safety have grown since Stephen Powell, 19, was shot to death around the time the festival ended in 2010. This year, one of the Sisters was attacked in an apparent hate crime.

While many worry about violence increasing at Pink Saturday, crime data show there have been serious incidents, but the numbers haven't risen recently.

"Pink Saturday has been a wonderful event for many, many years, and there have been some great things that have come from it," Roberts said, noting the event "is one of our largest fundraisers of the year." However, he said, "Pink Saturday has kind of outgrown itself," and there are some "major changes that need to be made."

Among other things, Roberts said, there needs to be "a little more assistance from the city with regards to security and police monitoring."

Some have suggested starting the party earlier in the afternoon and ending it by about 8:30 p.m. Roberts also brought up the idea of ending the event earlier, since the crowd and tone of the event seem to change about halfway through as more out-of-town people arrive.

"I would not support shutting down Pink Saturday in total, but I would definitely not support running Pink Saturday the way it's been running," he said. It's "grown too big" and there are "too many people who are not part of the queer community coming in just because it's a free place to drink on the streets."

Roberts also added that the Sisters' relationship with police is "very good" and they "very much appreciate" the efforts of the San Francisco Police Department and other officials.

Asked previously whether he'd support canceling the party, which raises thousands of dollars for charities every year, Wiener said, "I'm not prepared to go there. Pink Saturday has been such a terrific annual event for the community."

The party may have grown too large for the Sisters, who aren't paid for their work on the event, to handle.

Wiener said he thinks the Sisters "have the capacity" to organize the event, and they "do a remarkable job."

 

Crime incidents

The B.A.R. analyzed individual-level crime data available through SFPD's website, which show incidents for the past six months, including this year's Pink Saturday. The police site doesn't show specific crimes for previous years, so the B.A.R. also used past reports from Community Patrol USA, which shows incidents that were reported to police.

According to data from the SFPD site, in 2014, there were 12 incidents within half a mile of 18th and Castro streets during the hours of the event. There was one case of aggravated assault/assault with a deadly weapon, five incidents of assault/battery, and one report of someone with a gun.

In 2013, according to the patrol group data, there were 23 incidents around the approximate times of the party. That included two counts of aggravated assault/assault with a deadly weapon and six cases of assault/battery.

Numbers for 2012 were similar. The patrollers' data reflect police reports for 23 incidents during the festival, including one case of aggravated assault/assault with a deadly weapon, four instances of assault/battery, and one report of a person with a gun.

The analysis doesn't include incidents that happened after midnight on the Sunday of each year. Pink Saturday officially ends before that time. The radius used by the patrol group, which says its report doesn't record every crime, is slightly different than the area the B.A.R. used. It's not possible to tell whether every case was directly related to Pink Saturday.

Asked about Pink Saturday in a recent Bay Area Reporter editorial board meeting, District Attorney George Gasc—n said, "I hope it's not shut down." He said the party is "part of the fabric of the city" and "the great majority of people" who attend "come out to have a good time, and that's all they do." Security should be improved, he said, but "we should look for ways to fix the problems," rather than just end the festival.

Greg Carey is with Castro Community on Patrol. The volunteer group regularly patrols the Castro, including on the night of Pink Saturday. The organization is also a beneficiary of the event. Carey said if the Sisters do turn operation of the party over to someone else, that entity may have trouble finding as many volunteers to be involved.

He said that overall, "things went better" this year than they previously had. One reason for improvement he cited was that the main dance area was moved away to a space where there was less room for people.

Each year, people coming into the party are checked for weapons, and people aren't supposed to have alcohol on the streets within the footprint of the event. Carey said that even if Pink Saturday were canceled, people "are going to come in as a random mob with whatever they want to bring with them."

Captain Dan Perea, who heads the Mission police station, which oversees the Castro and other neighborhoods, was event commander for Pink Saturday and several other facets of Pride weekend this year. Perea didn't respond to emailed questions for this story. However, he has previously said in an email that the decision on whether to have Pink Saturday "belongs to the community who celebrate Pride," the Sisters, "and the residents of the area where the event is held. My personal opinion is the decision should not be made by outsiders and troublemakers who disrupt the celebration of Pride for those who gather to celebrate."

 

Finances

Sister Selma Soul, whose real name is James Bazydola, had been in charge of Pink Saturday for the last three years before stepping down since she fulfilled her commitment. Bazydola recently estimated that the 2014 party raised $90,000, with $22,500 distributed to 15 other organizations and $5,000 more set aside for community grants. Other costs included security and insurance.

In response to an email seeking more financial figures, Roberts said, "My question for your is why the focus on Pink Saturday finances? Typically, the majority of money raised goes towards those volunteers who earn money for their organization by volunteering with us at gates. Typically, that is the largest share of the PS intake," with another $5,000 to $10,000 "given out in grants any given year, depending on the amount of donations we collect."

Roberts said while finances are important, "what I'd focus on is the fact that for the last five years, we have been seeing higher attendance and lower donations. For instance, this last PS, after configuring the number of attendees versus the amount of donations taken in, we got less than 80 cents per attendee."






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