It was creepy, to say the least.
Usually, I go around the entry point to San Francisco’s Pink Saturday celebration (on the night before the pride parade) and head into the Castro without having to deal with the crowded gates. But this year, one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stopped me and said I had to have someone wave a metal detector over my body before I could enter. A group of cops stood nearby. The Castro was in heavy security mode.
I get that we live in dangerous times. In the past, there’s been violence at Pink Saturday and at the pride parade. Violence has become a staple of life at public events in the new millennium. A few years ago, the celebration of Halloween in the Castro, which drew untold numbers of people into our hood to drink, cruise and let loose, was halted because of gang-related violence.
Now, Pink Saturday was using metal detectors at the gate. What’s next, body scans?
I suddenly felt nauseous and wanted to turn around and go home. I couldn’t. I promised that I’d help with the dropping of some banners. Members of a coalition called OccuPride, which was formed in opposition to the tremendous commercialization and corporatization of the pride parade (which is cosponsored by, among others, B of A and Wells Fargo, two banks involved in foreclosing people’s homes), were planning to hang banners with timely political messages off of some roofs along the main street where Pink Saturday was taking place.
From the rooftops, I noticed what appeared to be a security guard on top of the B of A building across the street. It was no surprise. There’s been a lot of press about OccuPride and our objections to the banks. It further creeped me out. What did B of A think we were going to do?
I was down in the street handing out condoms when the banners were unfurled from the edges of the roofs. Some people looked up for a moment. There was some applause. The cops who were standing nearby stared up for a moment, but they didn’t seem too concerned. They had more serious things to worry about than a group of radicals out to remind folks that AIDS is not over, and Stonewall was a riot.
Being down in the street made me uncomfortable. The crowd wasn’t as friendly as it used to be. I didn’t recognize many people. I ended up back on the roof holding up a “Community Not Commodity” banner on sticks with two other folks. I wasn’t thrilled about standing near the edge of the roof. I don’t get along well with heights.
Heading home a short while later, I edged my way through the almost impenetrable mass of bodies. My only impulse was to get out of there as quickly as I could. It didn’t feel like my party.
When I made it to the small hill just beyond the entry gate (and at the corner of my street), I looked back and thought: what’s the point of all this? What had started as an ACT UP takeover of the streets in 1990 had become another street party without a purpose.
Nearing my building, I passed two guys who had ducked into the shadows to make out by some trees. They were really going at it and didn’t even notice me walking by.
I wanted to applaud, but I kept on walking, suddenly feeling a little better.