People's March struts down Polk St. with resistance

  • by Max Guerrera
  • Tuesday June 25, 2024
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The People's March took place June 23 and sought to bring Pride back to its roots of protest. Photo: Max Guerrera
The People's March took place June 23 and sought to bring Pride back to its roots of protest. Photo: Max Guerrera

"Queer power!" was chanted by hundreds of marchers during this year's fifth annual People's March, Sunday, June 23. Organized by drag queen Juanita MORE! and drag king Alex U. Inn, the event is an act of resistance that empowers the LGBTQ community to honor the roots of Pride.

Started in 2020 during the COVID pandemic, when the San Francisco Pride festivities were held virtually, this year's People's March took place a week earlier than in the past, as the Bay Area Reporter noted.

"We felt the need to bring Pride back to its origin in activism and protest," said MORE!, who led from the front end of the march. "I want everyone to see what a beautiful community this is that I share. Walking down here, I loved when I saw someone run and join in the back of the parade. That was beautiful."

The march began at Polk and Washington streets, where participants marched down to Polk and Sutter. Intersections were gated off by Dykes on Bikes Women's Motorcycle Contingent, which guided traffic and eliminated the need for police participation at the event.

"This is a safe space, especially because we focus on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people," Inn said. "That's why there's no police presence. We did this march all by ourselves, you saw no police, we took no capitalist money, you didn't see any [corporate] banners flying around."

The People's March is directly funded through donations from individuals and a drag show fundraiser that took place at Music City on Bush Street after the march, organizers said. Inn estimated that between 400-500 people attended the march and its related activities.

Contingents brought attention to Palestinians in Gaza and the call for a permanent ceasefire in the Hamas-Israel war. Israel's war in the Gaza Strip started after Hamas, which governs the territory, killed 1,200 people last October 7 in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas since then has been holding Israelis hostage in Gaza.

Israel responded with an extensive bombing campaign in Gaza, and a ground invasion, which has led to the deaths of over 37,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities, Reuters reports.

The U.S. provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel annually. The Biden administration has faced pressure from some Democrats and protesters to cut off that aid, or make it conditional on a ceasefire.

The ongoing war has roiled LGBTQ communities across the country and been the focus of contingents and protests at Pride events. Strong feelings on both sides of the Israel-Hamas war have landed the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee in the middle, seemingly not pleasing anyone, as the B.A.R. reported in its June 20 issue.

The city's main Pride parade, set to take place Sunday, once marched through the Polk Gulch neighborhood in the 1970s, as it was then a thriving LGBTQ district. Beginning in the 2000s, LGBTQ bars and businesses began shuttering their doors along Polk Street, though several nonprofits serving the LGBTQ community remain rooted there along with legacy gay establishments like the Cinch Saloon.

Although the People's March thrives today due to its historical roots, it continues to create a new space for community every year.

"For me, this year Pride really is [important] because I'm still coming into myself and into my own identity. It's been really nice to be in a crowd of people all embracing it," said first time marcher, Scarlet B, who identifies as nonbinary and declined to give their last name.

The march ended at Fern Alley, where a music festival afterparty took place with food, drink, artists, and vendors.

"One of my goals was that we got all these people together today, and now we're going to celebrate," said MORE!, proudly soaking in the love and liveliness on the streets in the aftermath of the event. "We're going to continue to do the march; I hope that more people join us in celebrating this big family."

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