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Updated: SF Pride board will not ban Google from festivities

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People protested the appearance of Google in the 2019 San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter
People protested the appearance of Google in the 2019 San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter   

The board that oversees San Francisco Pride will not ban Google, its affiliate YouTube, and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office from this year's parade and festival.

While the San Francisco Pride board did not vote on the matter during the public portion of its meeting Wednesday — it held a closed session beforehand — Executive Director Fred Lopez issued a statement afterward that said there would be no ban.

"We have decided as a board there will not be a ban against Google nor the Alameda County Sheriff's Office at this year's Pride celebration. Instead, we are saying yes to inclusivity," Lopez wrote in a statement sent to the Bay Area Reporter late Wednesday. "The Alameda County Sheriff's department has not had its own contingent in the parade in years past, and Google has been a responsive corporate sponsor for more than a decade. We are in agreement that banning those groups is not in the best interest of Pride and its members, who look forward to an inclusive event each year that reflects the diversity of our wonderful community."

The meeting, which lasted a little over an hour, featured plenty of discussion of the proposal.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported January 17,, seven people at a Pride general membership meeting last month voted to ban the organizations. Led by two former Google employees, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office was added into the mix in the wake of its role in the January 14 eviction of four homeless women and their children who had been occupying a vacant house in Oakland.

An attorney with the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, Inc. — the formal name of the SF Pride organization — said that last month's members' vote could not be considered binding.

"Pride's board of directors is set to take up the issue at its meeting next month," SF Pride spokeswoman Allison Ortiz told the B.A.R. January 24.

The item was not on the agenda at the board of directors meeting, which was held at the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus building at 170 Valencia Street. It appeared that about two-dozen people attended the meeting.

Tyler Breisacher and Laurence Berland, who spearheaded the proposed bans, were at the meeting and expressed their dismay that the board wouldn't vote on a resolution disclosing how much money Pride receives from Google.

Breisacher said that the issue came up last year after YouTube, which is owned by Google, failed to ban a conservative comedian who Carlos Maza, a YouTube content creator, said was directing his followers to harass him. The comedian, Steven Crowder, called Maza a "lispy queer," among other homophobic and anti-Latino slurs. Google has since updated its harassment policies.

"If I walked up to them (the board members) today and asked 'How much does Google give to Pride?' they couldn't tell me," Breisacher said. "The transparency resolution got less press attention, but it would apply to all companies."

Berland expressed a similar sentiment.

"Our efforts to work together have ended in delay, delay, delay without any action," Berland said. "The board ought to have the transparency motion we put forward so that we can actually talk seriously about the terms of these contracts."

Lopez and board President Carolyn Wysinger both told the B.A.R. after the meeting that not revealing exact contributions was standard nonprofit practice.

"That's a general standard practice with corporate sponsorships," Lopez said. "Most events don't share exact numbers. It's a partnership."

The B.A.R. received a similar answer when it asked Lopez last month how much money Google gave Pride.

Wysinger said that the Alameda County Sheriff's Office had not been included in previous Pride festivities, saying that banning it was being used as a way to draw attention to the Google issue.

"Righteous indignation doesn't move the needle toward equity," Wysinger, who is black, said during the meeting, addressing those who wanted the ban. "I cannot stand here and allow you to co-opt black pain and black trauma.

"Receiving emails about the board not understanding what LGBT people are facing, a better question is, do you know what LGBT people are facing? Are you walking? Have you been among the medically-challenged, or the drug addicted, or are you an armchair warrior?" she asked.

Wysinger published the whole statement to her Facebook page Thursday. In it, she said that the situation is "exactly the reason why white men are not and should not be at the forefront of any social justice movement."

"Somehow the words of enlightened leaders who advise white people to use their privilege to create equity somehow it got filtered into let me DO it. Well we are seeing right now in our presidential election how that works or rather doesn't work. White men have a penchant for thinking THEY should be the fixer of things. The only problem is that when you lead with your entitlement and ego you destroy everything around it every single time," she wrote in the post.

Issue of approach
Wysinger and Lopez said that the issue is one of approach — whether to change corporate cultures from the inside or the outside. They both said that SF Pride has been in discussions with Google over the issues raised by Breisacher and Berland.

"If it wasn't for SF Pride going to the table with Google and having those conversations, I would not have been able to take those concerns to Google," Wysinger said in her statement at the meeting. "We were presented with their harassment policies, which presents why black people must be at the table."

Wysinger said that she initially opposed having Google at Pride when the issue was raised last year, but since then the approach of inclusion has provided positive results for marginalized communities.

"In hindsight I'm glad that we didn't (ban Google) because as many people know I have been working with a number of social justice organizations about the intersectionality of civil rights & tech," she said. "This isn't about supporting companies at all. I have my own personal issue with the fact that these entities believe that it's important that their LGBT employees have the right to march but that they are too scared to come and advocate for that themselves."

Wysinger and Lopez said after the meeting that the board would continue to discuss corporate accountability. Lopez said that a corporate accountability committee was in the works.

"We are going back to the drawing board to take as complete a look at corporate accountability as possible, with people from the business community, the activist community, and the Pride community," Lopez said. "As early as last June, when the issue came up, we sat down with friends at Google and we have remained in constant contact since then."

A Google spokesperson emailed a statement to the B.A.R. late Wednesday: "Google has been a proud participant in San Francisco Pride for more than a decade and we will continue to support this important community organization and others like it here in San Francisco."

Wysinger told members of the media in attendance that only she and Lopez could speak for the organization.

The B.A.R. and other local media outlets were told they could not photograph the board of directors meeting due to concerns about the safety of attendees.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Updated: 2/6/20: This story has been updated.

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