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Online Extra: Pressure mounts for SF Pride to postpone 2020 parade

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The Apple contingent sported rainbow-colored balloons in last year's San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
The Apple contingent sported rainbow-colored balloons in last year's San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland   

While the novel coronavirus outbreak has shut down much of American life in the past month, causing thousands of events to be canceled or postponed nationwide, the 50th annual San Francisco Pride parade and festival is slated to proceed as scheduled June 27-28.

"Right now, we are still processing requests and permits past the period of shelter-at-home," Nick Chapman, a manager with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (which deals with the street closures associated with SF Pride and other major civic events), told the Bay Area Reporter by phone April 3. "But everyone is aware the situation could change; new orders could come into play."

The shelter-in-place orders in seven Bay Area counties (including San Francisco), designed to halt the spread of the new coronavirus, are currently scheduled to remain in place through May 3. An order to the same effect applicable to the entire state, from the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom, has no expiration date.

But LGBT elected leaders and longtime activists are worried that even if some semblance of normalcy is restored to daily life before late June, it may not be the best time from a public health perspective for the city to host an event that annually boasts an attendance of up to 1 million people.

"Honestly, it is hard to imagine Pride coming together in its traditional form less than three months from now," gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman told the B.A.R. April 3. "Ultimately, public health will dictate whether and in what form this year's Pride celebration can occur."

Nicky "Tita Aida" Calma, one of the organizers of the Trans March, which traditionally takes place the Friday of Pride weekend, stated that there will be a meeting this week to discuss next steps.

"Thank you for your inquiry. As of the moment, we are going to be holding meetings with SF Pride, Dyke March, and the City & County of SF to discuss all the events happening in June, hopefully, next week," Calma wrote in an April 3 email to the B.A.R. "We will issue a statement once a decision has been made and I do not know when that will happen."

As the B.A.R. previously reported, Pride celebrations have been postponed in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Santa Cruz. Sonoma County canceled its event. New York City Pride, which is scheduled for the same dates as its San Francisco counterpart, was slated to go on as scheduled at press time. New York City currently has the largest novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee stated in a Facebook post March 24 that "all options are on the table."

"While abiding by the city's COVID-19 shelter-in-place directive, our staff and board continue to forge ahead, cautiously optimistic that taking sensible — if unprecedented — measures now will enable us to celebrate Pride 50 together as a community," the post stated.

When asked via email March 30, SF Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez said that the statement "still applies."

"We have no additional updates to announce at this time," Lopez wrote. "Since COVID-19 emerged, we have been exploring alternatives to what we initially imagined for Pride 50, and in light of today's extension of the shelter-in-place order (from April 7 until May), we will continue working with our partners at the city to determine the best course of action. We hope everyone remains safe and healthy."

Lopez had previously said the situation would be clear "by about mid-April." But some want a decision now.

Larry Nelson, who created the 2018 "Generations of Strength" SF Pride theme that was spun off to create the 2019 "Generations of Resistance" and the 2020 "Generations of Hope" themes, stated that although he has a "special affinity" for SF Pride, it is time to make a decision.

"We are past the time for SF Pride to step up and make an announcement that our annual celebration will be postponed," Nelson wrote to the B.A.R. April 4. "We don't know how long this crisis will last. Of course, postponement is preferred. ... It goes without saying, but bears repeating, that this is not our first pandemic, unfortunately, that our wonderful San Francisco community has faced. We know what we should do. The SF Pride board needs to make a decision now."

It is unclear what will emerge in San Francisco and the Bay Area once the stay-at-home orders are lifted. But it's been reported that many experts believe there will be a gradual easing of physical distancing requirements over time, rather than everything reopening at once.

Ken Jones, who had been the first African American chair of SF Pride's board of directors, wrote in a Facebook post that he would be "very disappointed if it came to that," in terms of postponing the Pride parade, but added that the board members "will debate the issue more fully."

When asked to expound upon this, Jones told the B.A.R. he had several considerations in mind.

"Whenever a community of people have been challenged to alter and change their way of life for the sake of humanity, and our survival, there has to be a signal, a word, a sign that this battle is over," Jones wrote. "If we are doing (continue doing) what we are supposed to be doing (and not three ZIP codes away from home) but continue to shelter in for just three more weeks, we will have made it through this."

Jones said that it would be hard to find an alternative date in 2020 "between July and November that will not be a major conflict with another major Bay Area event."

"I believe we can do this. I believe we must do this," Jones added, finishing by saying that he has a vision of the San Francisco LGBTQ community setting a record for the world's largest group hug.

"What better occasion than Pride," Jones wrote.

Mayor London Breed's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.


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