Editorial: If you see something, say something

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday June 22, 2022
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A crowd filled the Castro on Pink Saturday in 2012. Photo: Rick Gerharter
A crowd filled the Castro on Pink Saturday in 2012. Photo: Rick Gerharter

If you see something, say something. That appeal to the public gained traction after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and, today, remains relevant as the LGBTQ community prepares to celebrate the first in-person San Francisco Pride events since 2019. The reason, of course, is the uptick in some strange and frightening events over the past several weeks, both locally and across the country. The weekend of June 11-12 was particularly active: in Idaho, authorities arrested 31 men allegedly affiliated with Patriot Front, a white nationalist group. The men, seen by a tipster piling into a U-Haul truck, allegedly were planning to disrupt a Pride event in Coeur d'Alene. The group was armed with "shields, shin guards and other riot gear with them," along with papers "similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event," CNN reported. The arrests were for conspiracy to riot, which is a misdemeanor. The suspects came from 11 different states.

Hundreds of miles away, in the East Bay town of San Lorenzo, alleged members of the Proud Boys, another right-wing group, hijacked a drag queen storytime event at the public library. The men barged in and harassed drag queen Panda Dulce as she was reading to the children.

A bomb threat was made to gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). "We placed bombs in his office and his house," an email read. "You bastards all deserve to die." Authorities searched Wiener's San Francisco home and offices as well as his offices in Sacramento. And while nothing was found, Wiener, who said he regularly receives threats, was clear that he was targeted because of his work and legislation on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

Even LGBTQ youth nonprofit LYRIC was singled out. The Castro-based agency itself received the second of two bomb threats in May.

These incidents didn't happen in isolation. In Wiener's case, he recently joked on Twitter about proposing a bill that would make "Drag Queen 101" part of K-12 curriculum in response to a Texas lawmaker, as we reported last week. It was in response to Texas state Representative Bryan Slayton (R) moving to ban drag shows in the presence of minors in the Lone Star State.

Wiener's quip led California state Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Riverside) to post a homophobic tweet about her colleague: "I'd like to say don't take his tweet seriously," she wrote. "But he's the author of 2 other bills, one that says purposely giving someone HIV isn't a crime, the other makes it legal for 25 yr old men to have sex with 15 yr old boys."

Of course, that is out of context. Wiener's 2017 legislation around HIV amended California's anachronistic criminal codes that target people living with the virus. It was signed into law by then-governor Jerry Brown. Wiener's criminal justice bill in 2020, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law, ensures that LGBTQ adolescents are treated the same as their heterosexual peers when faced with the possibility of being listed on the state's sex offender registry.

Melendez knows better but her tweet certainly fanned the flames of twitter outrage. Lesbian state Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) should admonish Melendez for her unacceptable social media post.

Right-wing extremists and anti-LGBTQ forces have been active for decades, as we all know, but these recent incidents usher in a new level of toxicity and intimidation meant to instill fear. Anti-LGBTQ legislation in many states seeks to criminalize trans people and deny them access to health care. School districts are banning LGBTQ-themed books. Emboldened by their privilege, lawmakers across the country are trying — and in some cases succeeding — to define us and our bodies by telling us who can participate on athletic teams at school. Internationally, FINA, the world governing body for swimming, this week instituted a new policy that essentially bars trans women from elite competitions. That will likely quickly trickle down to organizations in this country — we're looking at you, USA Swimming — that could adopt similar prohibitions.

All of this is to say that people need to be especially vigilant this Pride weekend. Starting Friday with the Trans March; continuing with the Dyke March and activities in the Castro and Civic Center on Saturday; and culminating with the San Francisco Pride parade, the People's March, and more parties on Sunday, LGBTQs and their friends will be celebrating in person for the first time since 2019. But they should also keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Remember, it was someone seeing something out of the ordinary — a bunch of men piling into a U Haul wearing identical uniforms — that led to the arrests in Idaho.

San Francisco police, the city's emergency department, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are all on alert, gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman told us. They are aware of these latest incidents. Everyone should do their part too, particularly in the Castro.

If you see something suspicious, say something.

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