SF Pride needs dose of transparency

  • Wednesday June 1, 2016
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SF Pride needs dose of transparency

As Pride Month starts, it's necessary to consider plans to address and improve security at the Pride festival in Civic Center. Organizations are preparing their parade contingents and signing up volunteers to staff festival booths. Nonprofits that are part of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee's community partner program will be providing workers for the festival beverage booths. The Pride Committee itself is in a constant state of motion as the event nears, but it should take the time to inform the public and volunteers about any changes in security.

The Pride Committee faces challenges posed by the recent filing of two lawsuits in San Francisco Superior Court alleging that the organization has "knowingly and willfully failed to take adequate steps to prevent violence." One of the complaints was filed by a San Francisco man who was shot last year within the festival perimeter. The second was filed by two brothers who were injured as they fled a shooting at the June 2013 festival. The Pride Committee settled a similar lawsuit earlier this year brought by a Los Angeles man after he was shot at the 2013 festival. A lawsuit by another man, who was also shot in 2013, is pending. That's four lawsuits involving gun violence at the 2013 and 2015 events. It would seem that changes in how the Pride Committee staffs and implements its security protocols are necessary. Although it's highly unlikely that this year's festival will be canceled – a judge will hear that issue later this month – the Pride Committee must work to ensure that its events are safe for staff, volunteers, performers, vendors, and attendees.

The Pride Committee has so far not been forthcoming with its security plan. Part of that is understandable; there are legitimate security reasons not to divulge every detail. But we do think the community is entitled to know what to expect when people arrive at Civic Center en masse following the hourslong parade. The crush of people entering the festival grounds is overwhelming, and it doesn't let up on Sunday afternoon. (The smaller Saturday festival has been peaceful compared to the massive Sunday gathering.) Will there be metal detectors? Will bags be checked? Those are just two basic questions to which we'd like answers. The recent lawsuits include Pride Committee materials such as emails between organizers that show some of them, at least, think the festival should end earlier. As we report this week, court documents filed last month include numerous examples of Pride officials acknowledging serious safety concerns, including a 2013 Pride safety subcommittee report that said, "It has been many years running now that Pride has had serious crises at its closing time. It is negligent of us to maintain this ignore-the-problem-and-hope-it-goes-away-attitude." The report also suggested ending the festival earlier. This week, we learned the celebration will indeed conclude at 6 p.m. instead of 7.


So long to the pink brick

There's another piece of news we discovered late last week that, although it pales in comparison to alleged physical injury at Pride, nevertheless shows that the Pride Committee needs to be more transparent. Namely, there won't be a pink brick recipient this year. The dubious honor was bestowed on those who have done harm to the LGBT community and in past years included the American Family Association (2015), anti-gay pastor Scott Lively (2014), and the Boy Scouts of America (2013). For years, the public has voted for a nominee when casting votes for community grand marshals. We've questioned the need for the pink brick ever since it was given to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) in 2004. That was the year she said then-Mayor Gavin Newsom moved "too much, too fast, too soon" when he ordered city officials to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples in what jump-started the national marriage equality movement. Feinstein has been a staunch ally to the community for years, and was one of a handful of senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. She was not an early advocate of marriage equality but she wasn't the enemy of the LGBT community that the pink brick implied.

The problem with the Pride Committee dumping the pink brick this year is that people have already voted for it. In a February news release, the Pride Committee encouraged the public to vote for community and organizational grand marshals, as well as the pink brick recipient. It even listed this year's nominees: the anti-gay Liberty Council, the AFA-affiliated One Million Moms, and Donald Trump, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. So the votes have been cast, presumably the ballots counted, and ... the Pride Committee changes course – with no announcement – and says it is "re-evaluating" the pink brick. What it should have done is made that announcement either a) before voting commenced in February, or b) after this year's recipient was named. The act of secretly canceling votes raises suspicions that the committee did not like the result. It recalls the Chelsea Manning debacle a few years ago when the SF Pride board rescinded her grand marshal honor, although in that case the public didn't vote on the matter.

The Pride Committee's board and staff should explain its basic safety plans to the LGBT community. One of the world's largest Pride gatherings takes place in 23 days, with hundreds of thousands of people coming to San Francisco. To inform LGBTs – and others – what they can expect at the gates would help make Pride safer.