Updated: Milk plaza meeting postponed by organizers possibly due to Gaza protest

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday January 24, 2024
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A rendering shows an overview of the Memorial at Harvey Milk Plaza. Illustration: Courtesy SWA Group via Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza<br>
A rendering shows an overview of the Memorial at Harvey Milk Plaza. Illustration: Courtesy SWA Group via Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza

Apparent plans for a protest in support of Gaza may have led to the postponement of the big "We're Here to Recruit You" community meeting to discuss the planned renovation of the Memorial at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco's LGBTQ Castro neighborhood.

The meeting was to have taken place Thursday, January 25, at the former Harvey's space at 18th and Castro streets, as the Bay Area Reporter noted in an advance story last week.

Organizers announced the postponement Tuesday evening but did not give a reason. Aaron Wessels, who handles publicity for drag artist Juanita MORE!, one of the organizers, sent an email that stated the meeting was on hold.

"The 'We're Here to Recruit You' event originally scheduled to take place this Thursday will be rescheduled for another date/time," the email stated. "We look forward to celebrating with you all very soon!"

Wessels did not respond to a follow-up email seeking comment.

Brian Springfield, a gay man who's executive director of the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, which is spearheading the Memorial at Harvey Milk Plaza project, wrote in a text message that he "had no additional information on the postponement or on the rescheduled date."

A potential clue as to why it was postponed surfaced on social media Wednesday, after the initial publication of this report. The Instagram account gay.shame stated a Queers for Palestinian Liberation march, which had been scheduled for the Castro Thursday evening, has also now been postponed.

"A victory, kinda," the account posted. "As we know the #GAYS4GENOCIDE crew, including Scott Wiener, Rafael Mandelman and all their understudies were scheduled for a public event in the Castro on Thursday night. Rather than face trans/queer people anti-imperialists in the City they canceled."

On October 7, Hamas terrorists went into Israel and killed 1,200 people in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Israel responded with an extensive bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, governed by Hamas, and a ground invasion, which has led to the deaths of at least 25,000 Palestinians, according to media reports, making it the deadliest conflict in the region in over four decades.

Mandelman voted against a ceasefire resolution that was before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors earlier this month. Wiener also opposed the resolution, the San Francisco Standard reported.

President Joe Biden has also been called on to support a ceasefire, considering the billions in U.S. military aid sent to Israel. The Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club rescinded endorsing his primary bid for the party's presidential nomination on account of his handling of the war, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

"That said, WE WILL BE BACK SOON with another queers 4 Palestine action (probably in a few weeks)," the account stated.

Springfield did not answer a request for comment as to whether the event was postponed due to the planned march.

The Milk plaza project aims to reconfigure the public parklet above the Castro Muni station to make it more accessible and honor its namesake, who was the city's first openly gay elected official when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk took office in January 1978 but was assassinated, along with then-mayor George Moscone, 11 months later by disgruntled ex-supervisor Dan White.

While in office, Milk was a big supporter of public transit. The plaza was named in his honor in 1985.

Springfield had previously told the B.A.R. that the community meeting was to jump-start interest in the project, which has been on the drawing board for nearly seven years. The Friends' group, which has had a "quiet" capital campaign since at least last year, needs to raise about $35 million. Some of that money has already been raised, Springfield said, including about $1 million in private funds and $3.3 million in public funding.

The San Francisco Examiner last November reported that Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has asked for $5 million in the Fiscal Year 2024 federal budget for the redesign.

The community meeting was not to be a fundraiser, Springfield said, but a "buzz-raiser."

MORE! was one of several people scheduled to speak at the meeting. Another email from Wessels, sent before the postponement, indicated that "big news" would be revealed at the meeting. Springfield also did not have information on that.

"Juanita always surprises," he stated in a text.

John Ferrannini contributed reporting.

Updated, 1/24/24: This article has been updated with information on a planned Gaza protest.

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