Pride: Celebration and Condemnation

A Root Takes Hold

On June 18th, 1969, a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York’s City’s Greenwich Village rocked the gay community and left a ripple that continues to this day. At the time, Stonewall was a haven for locals and street kids who came to dance, mingle and party hard at the only gay bar in the city. The bar operated out the back door and under the table. It was a target for underage drinking and drug dealing. But, this was the refuge for a community alienated simply for being born a certain way. As a result of that violent night, something sparked, marking one of the first well-known spontaneous rebellions to come out of the LBGTQ community against the police and governmental oppression of sexual minorities.

Michael Fader, who was in the club the night of the raid, explained,
“Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us. It was something that just happened. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break it free. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.” *1 –Michael Fader, riot participant
“The Mattachine Society newsletter a month later offered its explanation of why the riots occurred: “It catered largely to a group of people who are not welcome in, or cannot afford, other places of homosexual social gathering…. The Stonewall became home to these kids. When it was raided, they fought for it. That, and the fact that they had nothing to lose other than the most tolerant and broadminded gay place in town, explains why.” *1

A year later, the first Gay-In and Gay Pride March was held in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Overnight groups across the country organized and paired their messages with new alternative media outlets. Commemorating the 1 year anniversary of Stonewall didn’t come without arrests in The Bay though, and since then global movements to normalize, legalize and legitimize the LBGTQ world with the rest have had their extreme ups and downs. PRIDE, now a tradition over 40 years old, continues to be an annual fixture of the Bay Area and a display of how far we have come but also how painfully far we still have yet to go.

Celebration

The San Francisco Gay Pride Parade is the second largest LBGTQ gathering in the world, second only to Sydney, Australia. The event features over 250 parade contingents, 300 exhibits and 20 different stages & venues. Over one million people frpm around the world are expected to attend, dressed to impress for 2 days of theatrical, political, musical and visual expression. This downtown pop-up arena costs $4million to produce and relies on the help from various donors and sponsors. A minimum $5 donation gets you in, which helps support and sustain the parade every year. Since 1997 Pride has given out over 2.1 million in grants to causes such as breast cancer research, HIV/AIDS organizations and non-profits that serve the local LBGTQ community. Pride also gets a lot of help from their sponsors, which include heavy-hitters like Bank Of America, Wells Fargo, Nike, Bud Light and ClearChannel, just to name a few. What started as a movement to raise awareness and end sexual discrimination for good has become a corporate-sponsored festival, intertwined with activism, consumerism and a few conflicting interests.

This year’s Pride Parade is anticipated to be a significant one, as the event’s timing coincides with dramatic news coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision on both DOMA and Proposition 8. It has been long overdue victory, and Californian couples celebrated the legalization with weddings all across the state. But even as I write this, pro-DOMA groups are already filing motions to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision. It has been an endless tug of war over the issue of marriage, the definition of and debate over stretching far back into our history. This is also a political move, as throwing a bone to the civil rights community in one respect distracts from the other crucial rights being taken away. For Instance, there’s that pesky abortion debate, the outcome of which threatens to send us back to the stone age. Again. Texas Senator Wendy Davis performed a marathon fillibuster to stop legislation that would close nearly every abortion clinic in Texas. Then there’s the slew of whistleblowers being demonized for sharing the truth with the public, despite public demonstrating and petitioning for his release. Bullying and violence still plague our schools. Cop violence plagues them on the streets. And all the while the Hollywood/Media juggernaut spends most of it’s time coming up with clever ways to perpetuate toxic stereotypes of social interaction. I think it’s fair to say we have a full plate. As members of oppressed, marginalized or discriminated communities, we have to be open to seeing the bigger picture. The fight for acceptance, choice or validation extends beyond sex and race, because what we also fighting for is equal access to the information, education and global allies that will help shape a new perspective, one in which we and the next generation actually view one another as human beings first and foremost. To get there we need to have freedom of assembly, and perhaps more parades. There is still a severe lack of safe public forums where all sexualities and races can experience what it means to coexist. Attempts to create or liberate that forum have been constantly under attack by the state, so while we can celebrate the headway we have made in achieving some equal protection under certain laws, the law is simply not working in our favor and we might want to consider getting out from under it altogether.

Condemnation

There has also been some tension this year between the SF Pride Board of Directors and local community members about the choice for Grand Marshall. Bradley Manning (who happens to be openly gay) was nominated but the Board has since denounced the idea. The story of Manning has been getting more attention as of late, partly because of the trial proceedings and the indirect ties to what has become the Snowden spectacle, co-starring Julian Assange. Broadcasting Manning’s story is important, and for many honoring his courage is more than fitting at Pride. While it may not be in the Board’s best interest to openly support a so-called ‘traitor’, it is if Pride is about advancing our society forward to be more accepting of each other and less accepting of oppressive forces. (like our homophobic congress) Manning is not a criminal; the people involved in the last decade of war crimes are. Bradley Manning was a soldier that endured bullying from his peers for being gay and feminine. Despite feeling alienated and depressed, Manning chose to do the right thing for all of us. Our government persecutes whistleblowers out of embarrassment, not because Manning actually “aided the enemy”, and millions know it. (Unless that enemy is the American People). So what we have is discrimination on political grounds, out of fear of negative association perhaps, for what Manning has been accused of and is projected to be, rather than acknowledging the human being they are. Because we now live under fascist-like surveillance, (which can no longer be denied) federal secrecy and CIA fabrications to instill fear, Manning’s question to all of us seems even more provocative:

“What would you do if you had evidence of war crimes? What would you do if ‘following orders’ meant participating in grave abuses that you opposed? Would you have the courage to risk everything – even your life – to do the right thing?”*2

Despite the close-mindedness of the Board, supporters of Bradley Manning have committed to making their voices heard this year. The Bradley Manning San Francisco Pride 2013 Contingent includes a huge array of activist groups; ACT UP, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Occupy AIDS, Queer Strike, Gays Without Borders and Occupy SF will be in attendance. (Just to name a few) On the Bradley Manning Support website they ” will be marching in solidarity and in mass.”*3 The message is clear and simple: Bradley Manning is a Gay Hero, and he deserves to be honored as such. All voices need to be heard. May this year’s Pride Parade be a reflection of these voices.

In Solidarity Forever,

Lauren

We’ll be on the ground live from the 43rd Annual Gay Pride Parade in historic Downtown San Francisco. The Bradley manning Contingent will be featuring music by the Brass Liberation Orchestra, Laimera and Daniel Ellsberg (it’s noted in a convertible)
Meet Up at 10 A.M. on Howard and Beale Streets.
San Francisco, California
http://www.bradleymanning.org
Info/RSVP: 510-488-3559
Michael@couragetoresist.org

Article References:

*1.http://www.edb.utexas.edu/faculty/salinas/students/student_sites/Spring2007/jap757/Stonewallaccounts.pdf
*2 http://www.bradleymanning.org/learn-more/in-his-own-words
*3 http://www.bradleymanning.org/activism/bradley-manning-solidarity-events-in-the-san-francisco-area

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“Direct Reaction at Gezi Gardens” June 14th, 2013

The tension, coupled with exhaustion, was visible as we walked up to Patricia’s Green in San Francisco. A call had been put out for the community convergence and by 6 o’clock the park was drawing a small crowd. People trickled in and milled about, sharing some grub and stories from the raid. Some couldn’t help glancing around at the surrounding streets. After the raid, some were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Several were sore and clearly shaken.

Despite the bulldozing of carefully planted crops and the trash compacting of our kitchen (among other belongings), there was a sense of hope in salvaging this fight. Whether a hummingbird or a crow’s eggs will stop more construction permanently is yet to be seen. For now, we face the army guarding the torn up garden beds. Those that scanned the streets had reason to keep an eye out. Cop cars circled around every couple minutes, round and round, staring us down. This crowd is refugees of yet another eviction. But still we find the energy to gather again and discuss the next move.



Video streaming by Ustream

At first the plans were loose-a march, then a possible direct action. After a quick circle of thought and ideas the march springs to life, quickly rushing to the street. The smell of sage is thick in the air and I am reminded of a time where true native ancestors fought to the death to defend Mother Earth. Now, we live in a time where not even a city block of green land is worth protecting. (At least this seems to be the typical developer’s stance) The careless corporations and contracted companies are not the only ones turning a blind eye. It appears San Francisco has lost its’ roots in more ways than one.

The pockets of public, green space, along with California appear to be dwindling. There are groups all over trying to fight every cause on their own. Our numbers are not what they should be, considering the countless reasons for us all to be pissed. The truth is, people stopped paying attention. Some seem to just ignore the urgency. Whether or not by choice, these silent voices consent to what just a few decide. These hills have been over-developed right under our noses for cushy condos and the machine is far from finished. It’s this complacency, paired with the demanding daily grind (and sprinkled with media distractions) that have worked well to cast a spell over the city.

They hustle about in their cars, often losing patience with our march, which took intersections at random. A symphony of honking broke out with our stops. Some passers by were on their phones, completely oblivious to our presence. From the windows above, figures peered down at us. I always wonder what it must look like from up there, as a tidal wave of angry, emotionally determined young and old come sweeping by. What do they feel when the streets echo with the sound of hoarse voices hollering, “HEY HEY! HO HO! GET OFF OUR FARM AND LET IT GROW!”?

The march had a few stand-offs with the police, which numbered at least 100 to our 75. (Roughly) We met them at the line of black & yellow tape.There were riot cops, motorbike cops and “casual Friday” cops. (Oh my!) We both had somewhat of a motley crew I guess. We took to the streets and circled round to the back-end of the farm; one made it into Gezi Gardens and pranced around the corner of pavement. A team of cops rushed at us from within the farm, running up the hill like a pack of fire ants. When they got to the bottom they tackled him, igniting the already charged energy of the crowd. There was another arrest I didn’t see, but I also witnessed the cops try to grab a phone from one activist on the sidewalk, which drew many in the crowd like moths to a flame.

We ended the day back at Patricia’s Green and finally rested. Then the megaphone was passed around. One after another people shared a beautiful piece of themselves to us all and forgot, maybe even for just a moment, that the police state wasn’t looming just across the street. Here, in this moment, it was just us and the refugee trees, us and the birds and the sky above.

Solidarity Forever,
Lauren

PS: CaCaaawww S.F.P.D.! Cacaaawww!

“Another Tree Falls… Is America Listening?”

In another life, Gezi Gardens was just another on-ramp for a San Francisco highway. An earthquake caused it to collapse, leaving a road to nowhere. The trees at its’ base survived the devastating quake. They stood for years, like proud veterans, preserved among the perennials at the Hayes Valley Farms. Since June 1st,
Liberate the Land activists and the broader community have been successfully transforming and holding the space in an effort to save these trees and the surrounding fertile ground.

At 1:30am this morning, a raid of Gezi Gardens was executed. With only a 2 minute warning, 100+ riot cops entered from the back end of the farm and evicted everyone inside. Now, as I write hours later, reports have come in that some of these elder trees have fallen. The cutters and bulldozers came four days earlier than scheduled and began leveling the ground within a few hours of the raid, while an aggressive police line guarded the empty farm.

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Construction, though, has temporarily halted as new evidence of a protected bird emerges. The Allen hummingbird, a rare creature protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703), has been discovered nesting in Gezi Gardens.The report and photographs of its’ existence were provided by a consultant biologist, (who was hired by the development company) who was brought in to do an adhoc survey of the bird’s nesting sites. However, some independent experts are arguing that such a proper survey could not have been performed that quickly. This discovery, if confirmed, could lead to permanent preservation of the land as a wildlife habitat and a game-changer for the developers still hoping for condos. It is a glimmer of hope for Liberate The Land after the violent and sleepless night before.

THE RAID

According to witness testimonies, at 1:45am people were woken up by alarms , signaling that the space was being raided. Some were woken up by the riot cops themselves, batons drawn. The warning and subsequent threat of arrest for trespassing was announced via megaphone by the riot police.

Then they began their sweep, hurrying and threatening people as they packed and gathered their things. People were escorted out the gate, in a single-file order, with each person escorted by a cop and kept 10 feet apart from the next. The evicted were taken two blocks away and continued to be harassed there as they regrouped.

Realizing the tree-sitters, 3 in total, were still hanging on without any support, the group circled back to Gezi Gardens and witnessed and documented their evictions. When they got to the corner of Laguna and Fell street, two arrests occurred at ground level in the park. Over the course of a few hours, three more randomly selected arrests were made on the sidewalk. Cherry pickers also arrived to pluck the tree-sitters. Two were removed peacefully, but one of them was released from jail with a fresh black eye, reportedly from the knuckle guard gloves of an officer, the equivalent of brass knuckles. The third sitter, hanging from his safety rope, appeared to suddenly fall 40 feet out of the tree. We can’t be sure what happened until the sitter is released from the hospital and police custody to tell their story. The officer involved in the incident claims that the individual “jumped to escape arrest.” However, video footage taken by an on-site livestreamer tells a different story. (Video Link Below via @CarrieM)

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It’s being reported the sitter sustained only minor injuries after landing on foam padding that, luckily, had been laid down by the police.

Simultaneously across town in the Visitacion Valley area of San Francisco, a double-homicide was committed. The shooting received NO police response. Apparently all available officers had been deployed to the corner of Laguna and Fell and were too busy evicting peaceful protestors.

In total there were 8 arrests, 2 of which required hospitalizations from the raid. Throughout the day several additional arrests have been made in the Gezi Garden area, which was shut down for the construction.

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Via Brettzilla

Gezi Gardens inspired both creativity and solidarity, just as its’ name was inspired by the brave people of Turkey. Dozens of people contributed their time and resources to this space. Within a week 8 tree sits had been constructed. A fully functioning kitchen provided a daily buffet. Visitors were greeted by an info table and folks eager to chat. Bands had come to perform. Skilled individuals had come to teach. And the best part? A future organic food source had been planted everywhere. All we wanted was to protect a place meant for all of us, a public square where organic food could be free and abundant. We envisioned a place for music, art and gardening to harmoniously collide with the walks of life that entered. Gezi Gardens is the first of three permaculture spaces in the area to be partially destroyed this year….so far. Now the question remains-

Will the community fight for Gezi Gardens or will it let the last veteran tree fall?

“Git”

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Where ever President Obama goes, cries of dissent are sure to follow. The last five years of Obama’s two terms have given us plenty of reasons to hoot and holler. In the well kept, upscale area of Palo Alto, protests are probably not a common site. On the corner of Middlefield street a friendly crowd slowly forms along the sidewalk. It steadily grows and is fairly mixed. There are grey beards, walkers and strollers, and women of all ages. At one point a photographer comments,
“you are the most interesting people here” as he takes a picture of us. We do stand out a bit I guess, kind of like a radical sore thumb on the manicured hand of suburbia.

Yesterday’s demonstration was a collaborative effort between the trifecta of environmentalist NGO’s. ( 350.org, the Sierra Club, and Credo) Code Pink and the west coast faction of the Raging Grannies were also there. We marched to our destination; a quiet, tree-lined block congested with shades of police and security. A line of valets in tuxedos await Obama’s arrival, “they look like penguins, maybe CNN Turkey is here,” Jak comments. The house being guarded is the McCluere’s residence; the host for the fancy fundraiser on Obama’s behalf. Their house is out of view and unfortunately so is the President as he slips in through another side street. The standoff continued though, with the hope of catching him on his way out.

The crowd that has gathered behind (and in front) of the barricades is a sea of blue and red, pressed against a homemade pipeline, carried by volunteers in white hazmat suits. There is plenty of time to stand around (especially since the president was late to begin with) so the crowd entertains itself. The Raging Grannies sing, a marching band plays, and the enthusiastic chants I first heard in D.C erupt. “Hey Obama we don’t need no pipeline drama!” is a crowd favorite. Echoing over us as a few “friendly” cops pass out sticker badges to children. It feels more like a block party at times than a protest.

I am reminded of that climate rally where the same premature celebratory energy made me uneasy. We have serious issues, urgent issues affecting all of us. At this point I find it hard to cheer and chant, while waiting for a glimpse of a man who has already decided our environmental fate. When it comes to the Keystone XL, which is still waiting for final review of studies conducted on its’ environmental impact, Obama can decide whenever he wants. He will probably wait until late fall to make it public though. At least that is the update from a Sierra Club volunteer, a well educated older man who speaks of our fifteen-year end game scenario. By 2028 the global carbon footprint is expected to reach 450 ppm, a point of no return for the planet. This is the kind of statistic that makes it hard for me to celebrate.

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My favorite part of the day was the Turkish solidarity. We meet Earehen Kirimli, originally from Istanbul, who has lived with his family in the US for six years. He, along with at least a dozen others, bring the story of Turkey to the forefront and to life. The images, glossy, blown up photos of the violence, say it all. There is one of a young women, arms outstretched, while a water cannon blasts down on her. Another shows a bloodied-faced reporter, possibly the photographer of the now famous “Women In The Red Dress” photo. If the pictures don’t do it for you, Earehen and the others are more than eager to show, in detail all of the news they know. It is better than keeping up with the twitter feed, and now we have faces and voice to connect us to this story of brutality and resilience of a people just beginning to wake and rise up.

In Solidarity Forever,

Lauren

http://www.resistturkey.org
People of Turkey are fighting for their freedom of speech. Please give them a hand by visiting this URL and sharing it with your friends. International awareness is the only way to pressure the Turkish government to stop the police violence.