Wednesday, October 25, 2017

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

LGBTs weigh in on if minorities feel welcome in Castro


Shaun Haines. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Print this Page
Send to a Friend
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on MySpace!
After Strut, the men's health center in the Castro, abruptly canceled its Black Love event in July, some LGBT African-Americans and others began discussing whether people of color feel welcome in the Castro.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which operates Strut, said the Black Love cancellation was due to an "odd" email it received that officials said "raised concern." But they never made the email public and declined further comment. They said Black Love would resume at a later date, which happened this month.
For members of San Francisco's queer African-American community, the Black Love cancellation was the latest in a long line of incidents in which people of color have felt that they are not wanted in the Castro.
Decades ago, Asian-Americans, blacks, and other minorities often had to show multiple IDs to enter bars. In 2004, blacks and others accused Les Natali of discriminating against African-Americans at his Badlands bar. That resulted in findings by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission that Natali had discriminated against African-Americans, but the findings were never official, because the HRC director at the time did not sign off on the report. The parties eventually reached a mediated settlement, and Natali has always denied the charges. After numerous court battles, Natali later bought the Pendulum, a Castro bar that catered to African-American gays, closed it for renovations, and reopened it as Toad Hall in 2009.
In 2016, Black Lives Matter dropped out of being the organizational grand marshal in the San Francisco Pride parade after Pride officials announced they were increasing police presence at the event in the aftermath of the massacre at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people died. BLM cited the numerous shootings of unarmed African-Americans by police as the reason for its decision.
Shaun Haines is a gay African-American organizer in San Francisco. He attended the October 19 Black Love program, the first one since the July cancellation.
"The event has changed. It was held on a different floor and day of the week and attracted a lot less people than what seems to be the average for events held at Strut. Someone suggested that security might be organized in conjunction with Castro Community on Patrol. They weren't present," he said, referring to the volunteer safety group.
Haines added that he greatly enjoyed the performances he saw at Black Love, which included poetry, spoken word, and comedy. He shared his feelings about both the good and bad sides of the Castro.
"The Castro is often a great place for community gatherings, recreation, and protests against our overall oppression," Haines told the Bay Area Reporter. "The Castro represents our mainstream gay community."
Haines said that the Castro can be a place where queers can gather against the Trump administration.
"We have the opportunity to join forces with other communities who are slowly starting to understand that we are all in this together," he said.
But Haines agrees that there are problems that need to be addressed.
"Among LGBT minorities, the transgender community, and for individuals with non-mainstream identities, the Castro is not widely considered to be a mecca for all," Haines said.
"We have been marching, holding rallies, and organizing demonstrations and yet not much has changed," he noted. "We feel undervalued and are underserved. We must, at every turn, demand to be heard or fight for a seat at the table or else our cultural heritage and contributions will be lost and not preserved alongside mainstream LGBT identities."
Haines feels that in most representations of the community, diversity is ignored.
The B.A.R. also spoke to Sister Merry Peter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the Reverend Dr. Megan Rohrer of Grace Lutheran Church about solutions.
"As long as there has been a Castro, vulnerable LGBTQ individuals who have felt unwelcome or unable to afford a Castro lifestyle have urged reforms, safety, and legal opportunities to become homeowners and merchants in the area and support for artists and activists," Rohrer, the first out trans pastor to lead a Lutheran congregation, said.
"The screaming queens and the vanguard youth on Polk Street in the 1960s and 1970s protested the same issues we see today," added Rohrer, referring to trans people, drag queens, and young LGBTs.
Rohrer, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, made a point of saying that they want businesses in the Castro to succeed.
"At the same time, our LGBTQ community must address the racial disparities, economic inequalities, and, sometimes, outright biases of our community," Rohrer said.
Rohrer urged the community to look back upon its history.
"LGBTQ activists must find ways to both thank the queer heroes who have brought us this far and name the ways that we have benefited from racism, economizing the bodies of others, and encouraging addiction," they said. "We must also do what we can to mentor and financially support the art, advocacy, businesses, and low-income housing options that support the most vulnerable in our LGBTQ community."
Peter also feels that much can be learned from looking back.
"Discrimination has been part of the Castro since the beginning," Peter said. "We need to listen to people's stories – people of color have never been welcome in bars. To change this, we have to admit that this is a systemic issue. We have to believe the people who feel excluded – we can't pretend that these aren't real stories. We have to start making deep and powerful changes."
Peter said that there are things people can do on a personal level.
"We have to confront our own prejudices," Peter said. "We have to make an effort to get to know people who are different from us – we have to be honest as a community that our institutions profit from discrimination."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In the News: SF Examiner

Patriot Prayer group leader says they’re returning to SF

Here we go again: Patriot Prayer announced they’re coming back to San Francisco.
On Sept. 17 the right-wing group’s organizer, Joey Gibson, wrote on Facebook that the group would return to the Bay Area.
“Berkeley and San Francisco heads up…. Patriot Prayer will be in town and march next week,” he wrote.

That’s seemingly set to be timed to coincide with Milo Yiannopoulos’ free speech week, which reportedly has been canceled. Still, the “Berkeley Rally Against White Supremacy” counter protest is scheduled for Monday.
Gibson told me via text message his group would be in the Bay Area Tuesday and Wednesday. When I asked where Patriot Prayer would go, he texted me, “Everywhere.”
I asked what he meant.
“We will be everywhere,” he replied.
Short of turning into the Flash, I was still a bit confused, and asked him to illuminate again. Gibson wrote, “I can’t give you specific details on what we are doing but it will be different but the same as what we did last time in SF.”
Different but the same? Well, that clarifies everything!
To be clear, what he did last time was cancel his rally a day before it was set to take place Aug. 26 at Crissy Field, and and instead hopped over to Pacifica as 15,000 or so San Franciscans marched in opposition to Patriot Prayer. Gibson and his followers eventually swung back into The City, and led counter-protesters and journalists on a merry chase from neighborhood to neighborhood.
At one point, he made his way to Civic Center, where counter-rally was held to promote love earlier in the day.
One of the few stragglers was a self-identified transgender woman who calls herself The Supergirl. She told me she felt Gibson and Patriot Prayer were misunderstood, and that she cried as she hugged Gibson and could feel his positive “energy.”
Well, to be fully accurate, I told her I needed to leave and walked away as she continued to sing Gibson’s praises loudly enough her voice echoed around City Hall’s dome a block away. Yeesh.
By contrast, the Rev. Megan Rohrer, a frequent rabble rouser in San Francisco, tweeted earlier this month that “On Aug 15, 2017 Joey said ’there are good members of Antifa.’ He is on whatever side the person he is talking to is on.”
It should be mentioned that the Oath Keepers, a militia that likely would not find many supporters in our lefty town, backed out of Patriot Prayer’s rally (before it was canceled) partly because Gibson scheduled Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman — who allegedly has direct white nationalist ties — as a speaker.
Still, Gibson was vague enough that I’d take it all with a huge ol’ grain of salt. If he does come, it’s a shame it may be Monday and not this weekend …
Can you imagine the right-wing Patriot Prayer accidentally finding themselves wandering through the leather-filled Folsom Street Fair on Sunday? Now that would’ve been a serious hoot.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at

Saturday, September 16, 2017

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Online Extra: Political Notes: Poll finds many LGBT people eschew religion


Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in San Jose recently marked its 30th anniversary as a Reconciled in Christ (welcoming and affirming to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities) congregation. Photo: Jo-Lynn Otto
New polling results have confirmed what faith leaders have long known, that many LGBT people eschew religion.

According to Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, nearly half of LGBT Americans, at 46 percent, are religiously unaffiliated. The finding is roughly twice the number of Americans overall (24 percent) who are religiously unaffiliated.

The findings are from the firm's "America's Changing Religious Identity" report, which was released last week. It is the largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted, according to PRRI.

"I thought it was very accurate based on what I see among LGBTQ folks. I think it is harder in the Bay Area to come out as a Christian than as a queer person," said the Reverend Megan Rohrer, Ph.D., who is transgender and the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

Michael Chertok, a gay man who is president of San Francisco's LGBT Jewish synagogue Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, was also unsurprised by the findings. "In general, Americans are less religiously affiliated today. This is even more so in urban areas where many LGBT people live," Chertok, who was out of town attending a conference for LGBT Jews, wrote in an emailed reply. "And it is further exacerbated in the LGBT community, where some have not been accepted as who they are by their faith – and even worse, sometimes persecuted."

The report is based on findings from PRRI's American Values Atlas and interviews with more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states. It found that only 43 percent of Americans identify as white and Christian, and only 30 percent as white and Protestant. In 1976, roughly eight in 10 (81 percent) Americans identified as white and identified with a Christian denomination, and a majority (55 percent) were white Protestants.

"For a long time a lot of this was anecdotal. Now, we can more clearly see this decline in religions and can see it with greater accuracy," said the Reverend Jim Mitulski, a gay man who is the interim senior minister at the Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ in Needham, Massachusetts.

Mitulski said the largely white congregation is emblematic of the churches in decline. "And we are liberal," he said. "In a sense, while I hate to see the decline, I am seeing it firsthand."

Thus, the PRRI poll "does confirm what I have been seeing," added Mitulski. It also should be a wake-up call for political leaders, he said.

"The political message is they need to stop making alliances with conservative religious leaders who are trying to use religion to control people," said Mitulski. "They need to stop seeing their alliances with religious leaders and religious organizations as something they can translate into votes."

As for the findings about LGBT Americans, the report found few identify as Christian. Only six percent of LGBT Americans are white evangelical Protestant, according to PRRI, while similar numbers identify as white mainline Protestant (8 percent) and white Catholic (6 percent).

Fewer than one in 10 identify as black Protestant (6 percent), Hispanic Catholic (5 percent), or Hispanic Protestant (3 percent), reported PRRI.

The report found stark generational differences among LGBT Americans in their religious identity. A majority (56 percent) of LGBT young adults (age 18 to 29) are religiously unaffiliated, compared to one-quarter (25 percent) of LGBT seniors (age 65 or older).

Notably, Buddhists and Unitarian-Universalists have a much higher proportion of LGBT members than other religious traditions, reported PRRI. One in seven Buddhists (14 percent) and Unitarian-Universalists (14 percent) identify as LGBT.

As for LGBT Jews, the survey found that LGBT Americans are somewhat overrepresented among non-Christian religions with 6 percent identifying as Jewish, compared to 2 percent of the general public.

"Particularly over the past year, we've seen a sharp upswing in the number of people attending our prayer services and programs – and some of the highest numbers of new members joining our community in our history, including many young people," wrote Chertok.

The Reform Jewish movement (URJ) has embraced LGBT Jews, noted Chertok, ordaining gay, lesbian, and transgender rabbis, permitting rabbis to marry same-sex couples for many years, and encouraging congregations to reach out to LGBT Jews. The Conservative Jewish movement has followed this trend, he added, noting that even some of the most fundamentalist Orthodox Jews "are starting to show openness" toward LGBT Jews.

"In general, the American Jewish community has been relatively accepting of LGBT people, compared to some other faiths," wrote Chertok. "Jewish synagogues in most major American cities, like Sha'ar Zahav in San Francisco, have had an outreach to the LGBT community for more than 40 years."

While certain Christian denominations continue to preach against LGBT people, there are those that are LGBT-affirming, pointed out Rohrer, and welcome LGBT individuals looking for a religious home.

"I think in the same way people would understand if you go to one Chinese restaurant that serves terrible food it is not emblematic of all Chinese restaurants. Research churches like where you want to go to the movies or eat food," said Rohrer. "It is work to figure out what is a safe or supportive space. We can't just assume every faith community is going to be terrible because we had abusive experiences with one faith." Despite the poll findings, Mitulski said he doesn't believe that Americans' "religious impulse" is on the decline. Prior to his moving to Boston last year, he worked in Denver and in Dallas "where church-going – even among LGBT people – is very strong," he noted.

And many LGBT people "are still gravitating," added Mitulski, to more liberal religions. "All of this is to say church leaders need to take notice that LGBT people are spiritual people but not interested in homophobic, oppressive religions," he said. "In the end I don't think anybody is."

The full report can be found online at

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail

Thursday, September 14, 2017

In the News: Nonviolence Radio

1 PM “Nonviolence Radio” Empathic listening can do powerful work in nonviolence. In this episode, we talk with Edwin Rutsch about Empathy Tents and share a dialogue that he facilitated between Joey Gibson and Megan Rohrer, two key organizers (at political odds) from this past weekend’s rallies in SF/Berkeley.     Audio here:

In the News: ESPN

Lincoln High School Announces 2017 Hall of Fame Class 
by Jeff Thurn September 5, 2017 11:15

Photo courtesy of SiouxFallsSchools via YouTube

 Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls will induct 10 new members into their Hall of Fame class in 2017.

Those members include Aaron Hove, Patrick Munson, Taun Toay, Frank Thomas, Bob Carlson, Chris Harper, Linda Yang, Megan Rohrer, Mary Cogswell and Thomas Lubeck.

If you want to get involved, you can contact Lincoln Athletic Director Joey Struwe at 605-367-7900.
The ceremony will take place Saturday September 23 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center and will include a meal with a ticket cost of $35.

Read More: Lincoln High School Announces 2017 Hall of Fame Class

Saturday, August 26, 2017

In the News: Time Magazine

Both Sides Gear Up for a Weekend of Protests in San Francisco

Updated: Aug 25, 2017 8:26 PM ET | Originally published: Aug 24, 2017
Update: The "free speech" rally planned for Saturday has been cancelled. Read more here.
Residents of San Francisco are bracing for thousands to descend on the city's streets this weekend — and hoping that there will not be violence. Weeks after a deadly confrontation between white nationalists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Va., right-wing organizers are hosting a "free speech" event near the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, and left-wing organizers have planned more than a dozen events around the city in response.

Though the organizers of the "free speech" event have disavowed white nationalism and say their intention is to gather peacefully, many fear that neo-Nazis will show up, a specter that has sent San Francisco's progressive activists into overdrive. "People are very alarmed by what's going on in the country," says longtime activist Cleve Jones, a well-known figure in the gay rights movement. "I have never seen the level of activity that I’ve seen over the last year.”

On Wednesday, the National Park Service issued a finalized permit for the "free speech" rally to a right wing group known as Patriot Prayer, allowing the event planned for Crissy Field to go forward. The expanse that runs along the city's northern shore is federal land, and the park service said that after consulting with their law enforcement arm, as well as the San Francisco Police Department, the decision was made to issue a permit "to promote the peaceful, non-violent expression of views."
The permit also came with conditions: not only will firearms be banned (normally concealed carry laws allow them in the area) but ralliers will not be allowed to bring anything that might be used as a weapon — pepper spray, drones, shields, bats, selfie sticks, as well as other items.
City officials do not have estimates for how many people might show up. But grassroots organizers believe there could be as many as 50,000 people in attendance this weekend, the vast majority taking part in counter-demonstrations that range from a musical celebration in Civic Center to a "mobile dance party" to the formation of a 100-foot "human heart" on Ocean Beach. Another right-wing rally planned for Sunday in Berkeley is expected to draw additional crowds from both sides.
Joey Gibson is the man behind Patriot Prayer (which he says is an "ideology" more than a group). His guess is also that the people at his rally will be vastly outnumbered by counter-protestors, and it's an educated one: The 33-year-old from Portland, Ore., has organized about a dozen similar events in the last several months.

Though they began as pro-Trump rallies, Gibson says he's left issues of "who you vote for" behind and is now focused on the belief that the First Amendment is being threatened by people who are intolerant of any viewpoints that don't match their own, on the left and the right. "People have a right to say whatever they want," says Gibson. "Hate speech is free speech ... Everyone has a right to be hateful. Unfortunately it’s not good for our society. But there is no debate, the law is the law.”
While he has publicly disavowed white supremacy and racism, Gibson also casts anti-fascist organizers known as antifa as one of the enemies of free speech — a belief that many white nationalists share. He acknowledges that individuals with extreme views have been attracted to his events in the past and that part of the intention of hosting an event in San Francisco is to show how "extremely intolerant" such liberal cities can be.

"There’s a lot people who disagree with the culture but they’re too afraid to stand up to it because they get called names, they get called Nazis, racists,” he says. There are people in cities like San Francisco who have "a meltdown when I’m sending a good message ... they’re going to get triggered and they freak out. That stuff gets on film and we send that film out so the country can see, they can see the insanity.” Such statements give credence to the notion that these rallies are being held to provoke the left, even if Gibson has spoken often about love and peace.

While officials are working to keep opposing groups far apart from each other, hoping the weekend ends without serious injuries as recent gatherings in Boston did, many expect extremists on the right and left to clash. Local lawmaker Mark Farrell, a driving force behind a "Peace, Love and Understanding" rally being hosted in the city's Civic Center, says his intention is to draw counter-protestors far from Crissy Field so that people can "celebrate our spirit in San Francisco in a way that does not give them any oxygen."

Like other city officials, Farrell has cast the Patriot Prayer event as a "Nazi rally" that will be catnip for white supremacists. When asked what he thinks of Gibson's statements about opposing such groups and promising to turn them away, he says, "I don't buy what they are selling for a minute."
His office oversees the area of the city that abuts Crissy Field and has been dealing with an influx of phone calls and emails from residents who are "angry and frightened," he says. “We want to do everything possible to encourage people not to show up at the event.”

Local organizers have been grappling with how to balance safety and the desire that residents in San Francisco have to make a statement about their beliefs. On a recent conference call, organizers from several groups swapped tips about how to maintain non-violence and traded ideas about what form protest should take.

Some of those ideas were high-minded, like setting up a website where people can, from the comfort of their homes, donate to groups that have missions antithetical to neo-Nazis. Others were lower brow, like taking dogs to poop en masse in Crissy Field before the rally was supposed to start. A suggestion to throw glitter on the rally's speakers was scrapped when someone pointed out that the glitter might hurt the "sensitive environmental habitat" in the area.

One of the people on that call was Megan Rohrer, a Lutheran pastor and volunteer chaplain for the SFPD. Rohrer, who uses the pronoun they, says some people also imagined unfurling a giant rainbow flag from the Golden Gate Bridge, which will be the backdrop for the "free speech" event.
Rohrer acknowledges that "there might be people who want to go there to have a violent encounter.” Many expect anti-fascist groups to meet the ralliers head on. But Rohrer also hopes people will attend a march from the city's Castro district to Civic Center instead. “The more we can feed people sandwiches rather than an adrenaline," they say, "the better our chances for keeping peace.”

In the News: NBC

San Francisco to Counter Patriot Prayer Rally by Eating Cake, Dancing and Leaving 'Dog Poop' at Crissy Field

Call it uniquely "San Francisco," but the City by the Bay has its own ideas for counter protests

The National Park Service on Wednesday granted a permit for a hotly-debated rally at Crissy Field this weekend.
Right-wing group, Patriot Prayer, last week applied for a permit to host "Freedom Rally San Francisco" on Saturday.
Despite criticism from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Superintendent London Breed, the National Park Service said, "We cannot deny a permit to anyone planning to exercise their First Amendment rights based on their political stance or beliefs."
Wary of whether the rally will draw white nationalists and invite violence, San Franciscans have made it known that racism and hatred are unwelcome in their hometown.
And the City by the Bay isn't stopping there. Residents have begun organizing counter-protests with unusual themes. 
Up first is "Leave your dog poop on Crissy Field" from 12 p.m. Aug. 25 through 10 a.m. Aug. 26. 
Organizers wrote on Facebook that the idea behind the event is to "leave a gift for our Alt-Right friends."
They continued: "Take your dog to Crissy Field and let them do their business and be sure not to clean it up! Watch out for landmines, friends! We can get together Sunday and clean up the mess and hug each other!"
San Francisco artist Tuffy Tuffington, who has two dogs, came up with the curious way to protest the Crissy Field rally, without needing direct conflict. 
"I was walking around and had this idea of people marching around in fields of poop," Tuffington said. "I thought that would be a nice form of civil disobedience and a way to not actually be there when they’re there."
He didn't know it would generate the interest it has, but is committed to making a stink — both literally and figuratively. So far, 525 people have demonstrated interest in this gathering, which has piqued the interest of nearly 3,000 more.
"I really intended for it to be a joke for my friends and I didn’t realize I made it public," Tuffington said. "A few hours later, there was 500 people interested."
Other counter-protesters, in true San Francisco style, are encouraging people to dance as "an alternative to hate, confrontation and aggression."
The "SF LovedUp Mobile Dance Counter-Rally" will last from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 26 at Marina Green Park. Attendees will not interrupt the white supremacist rally, but will dress in their "amazing colorful fabulous best" and "groove to cheesy, party pop dance athems," organizers wrote on Facebook. 
More than 1,000 people have said they will be at the event and nearly 6,000 more are interested.
Meanwhile, Stop the Violence, Galeria de la Raza, Queer Nation-San Francisco, Castro Community on Patrol, Unafraid, and a slew of other community organizations have teamed up with the Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer for what is described on Facebook as "San Francisco Peacefully Unites Against White Nationalists."
Organizers have issued a special invite to "all drag performers and sparkly freaks" to counter "violent behaviors" from 12 to 5 p.m. Aug. 26. 
They wrote: "Believing hate groups are coming to San Francisco to bait folk into helping them recruit others to their cause and to instigate violent behaviors so lawsuits can fund their hate work, we are uniting with diverse advocates and leaders around San Francisco who are urging safety, peace, and events that will help preserve the fragile diversity of Crissy Field."
However, this peaceful gathering will not occur at Crissy Field. It will be held at Civic Center, and roughy 2,300 people have signed up to attend and another 6,200 have expressed interest.
Supporters are also encouraged to attend a march for equality called "Come Together" at Harvey Milk Plaza between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. 
As Saturday's controversial rally nears, a growing number of unique protests are coming out of the woodwork.
"Sheetcake Picnic - Protest Alternative" invites people to Hellman Hollow at Golden Gate Park to — you guessed it — eat cake between 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday.
"I'm a left handed, Jewish homosexual. I don't always love labels, but I do love myself. And in these times of tension, that's something to celebrate," the event's organizer, Simon Betsadel, wrote on Facebook.
Instead of adding to hateful rhetoric at Crissy Field, Betsadel has invited people to lay on blankets, listen to music, and enjoy food and each others' presence.
By way of extravagence, "sparkles and eye makeup" are suggested, but attendees are free to "just do whatever gives you joy," he wrote.
Betsadel urged: "Let's think about everything we have that makes us diverse, fabulous, and totally unique." 
At the same time, Resistence SF is hosting "Calling All Clowns: Fascism is no laughing matter" from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Crissy Field Beach.
The gathering is a call to action for "anti-racist, anti-fascist clowns" to "mercilessly ridicule any neo-nazis, white supremacists, or alt right trolls who dare show their face in San Francisco," according to its Facebook page.
The group's Facebook page also advertises an event simply called "Resist SF" between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Crissy Field Beach. 
Organizers wrote: "Racism is evil. It must be eradicated from the face of the earth. We will not let facist, racist, morally bankrupt degenerates invade our beautiful city and spew hate. The time for passive tolerance is over. It's time to stand our ground. Its time to stand up."
Stressing the importance of relaying to protesters that there is no room for bigotry and hate in San Franciso, Resist SF cautioned: "We are not advocating violence or physical conflicts. We are advocating (participants) -- young, old, brave, bold; show up in force, create signs and disrupt the agenda of the unwelcomed hate groups.
"One voice. One people. One love. United we will stand."
It appears that San Franciscans also refuse to rob children of the opportunity to stand up for their home.
"The Cutest Lil Counter Protest" is billed as a peaceful, family-friendly protest.
The goal is to "smother hate with as much love and cuteness as possible," starting at 11 a.m. at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, according to Facebook.
A so-called "Cuties Parade" will start at 11:30 a.m. and end with a group photo in front of the de Young Summer of Love wall. Donations for the Southern Poverty Law Center will also be accepted.
An organization called Brown Lives Matter is hosting an "Anti-Racist Rally," which will start at 490 Marina Boulevard at 9 a.m. Saturday. 
The effort has picked up the attention of more than 300 people and aims to directly oppose Patriot Prayer's protest at Crissy Field. 
The Human Rights Commission has also spent days brainstorming on non-violent responses to the controversial free speech rally. To that end, the organization is setting up Help Against Hate stations across San Francisco and holding a peace festival, empowerment conference, community conversations and more.

In the News: 7x7

Love Trumps Hate: San Francisco Spirit Prevails as Bad Guys Cancel Rally at Crissy Field


It seems Crissy Field will remain pretty and pristine tomorrow as the expected alt right rally there has blessedly fallen through.

Earlier this afternoon, Joey Gibson, the group's organizers, announced he was pulling the plug on the rally, allegedly due to safety concerns. All we can say to that is Bravo! to the city, the GGNRA, and the many passionate San Francisco resisters who scared them away. Despite the cancellation, the many wonderful unity events planned at Civic Center, the Castro, and around the city will still go off as planned.
Gibson's posse is planning a (so far un-permitted) press conference at 2pm at Alamo Square Park. But just as we pledged to stay away from Crissy Field, we won't be taking our signs to the Painted Ladies either. (What's a press conference without the press?!) We'll be jammin' out to Michael Franti at Civic Center instead.
"Yes we are still on," said Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer—one of the organizers of the group San Francisco Peacefully Unites Against White Nationalists—in a Facebook message to 7x7. "All the planners of our events met with the SFPD to ensure the safety of our events no matter how the plans of the rally would change," she said. "Our desire to unite against hate and in support of love is even more resolved." // For more information on tomorrow's peaceful demonstrations, go to

In the News: Time Magazine

A Right-Wing 'Free Speech' Rally Planned for San Francisco Has Been Cancelled

Aug 25, 2017
A "free speech" rally planned for San Francisco's Crissy Field this weekend has been cancelled, the organizers said in a Facebook Live post on Friday.

The event was planned for Saturday by a right-wing group known as Patriot Prayer. Joey Gibson, the 33-year-old founder of the Portland, Ore.-based group, said that after consulting with law enforcement, he believed that people might be at risk for harm. "It doesn't seem safe. A lot of people's lives are going to be in danger," Gibson said on Facebook, adding that "tons of extremists" planned to show up and the event had the potential to become "a riot."

Gibson blamed liberal politicians and critics — who repeatedly characterized the event in terms like "Nazi rally" — for attracting extremist groups, despite his repeated public insistence that white nationalists are not welcome at the event. "It just seems like a huge set up," he said.
Instead, Patriot Prayer will host a news conference on Saturday at Alamo Square, to discuss the "rhetoric in San Francisco." The purpose of holding the rally, Gibson has said, was to challenge people on the left and the right who are too intolerant of any viewpoints that don't match their own.
California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat who represents the San Francisco area, tweeted that a news conference in Alamo Square would be "illegal as they have no permit."

Coming on the heels of a deadly clash between white nationalists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Va., many feared a reprise in San Francisco. A second right-wing rally was planned for Sunday in Berkeley, which repeatedly dealt with such blow-ups this spring. But according to ABC7, the organizer of that event has also asked that "no one come" due to "violent threats" and "grave concerns for the safety of the people attending my event."

The specter of neo-Nazi groups coming to the liberal city had sent progressive activists into hyperdrive on both sides of the bay. By Friday, they had organized more than a dozen counter-demonstrations in San Francisco and Berkeley, ranging from dance parties to a marches to the formation of a 100-foot "human heart" that would be photographed from the sky. People gathered on Friday afternoon for a "Unite Against Hate" event in San Francisco's city center, and residents have been bracing for thousands to arrive throughout the weekend.

Late Friday, it remained unclear whether rally-goers would still show up in Crissy Field. But the streets won't be quiet. Megan Rohrer, a Lutheran pastor who has been helping to coordinate the organization of those counter-demonstrations said, "They are all still on."

In the News: San Francisco Free Press

Crissy Field rally: Message of peace tainted by violence

 74 17Google +0 0 0
San Francisco Public Press
 — Aug 25 2017 - 12:53pm
Update at 3:49 p.m. PT: Organizer Joey Gibson says he is canceling the Crissy Field rally on Saturday and will instead hold a 2 p.m. press conference in Alamo Square, several blocks from a planned Civic Center counterprotest. "We asking the city to keep us safe," Gibson said on Facebook.
Update at 9:10 p.m. PT: Gibson has relinquished his permit for the Patriot Prayer rally, the National Park Service said Friday night. Presidio road closures will be lifted and Crissy Field will be open Saturday, along with nearby businesses.
"After several conversations with the police, and understanding the situation, we've decided that tomorrow really feels like a set-up," Gibson said earlier on Facebook Live. "A lot of people's lives aren't going to be safe. The rhetoric from Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Ed Lee, the media, all these people are saying we're white supremacists, bringing in tons of extremists, and it just seems like a huge set-up, so we're not going to fall into that trap, we're not going to rally at Crissy Field."
The Public Press will be covering events Saturday. Look for us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Here's our original article:
Joey Gibson has one goal in mind with his rally Saturday at Crissy Field: to attract San Francisco’s moderate, “good liberals” to his “free speech” message targeting government corruption and what he sees as hateful intolerance on the left and right.
The 33-year-old Japanese-American holds events in the name of Patriot Prayer, which is often called an organization but which Gibson described as a philosophy. A vocal campaigner for President Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” agenda, Gibson says he advocates for nonviolent protest and diverse viewpoints while rejecting extremism on both sides.
Gibson’s peaceful intentions will be put to the test at the Crissy Field gathering, which follows the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., two weeks ago and is set against a backdrop of heightened anxiety, inflamed passions and fear.
As a result, city and federal officials are sealing off the Presidio, a former military installation, making it as difficult as possible to get to the event by any means except a long walk as a tactic for reducing the possibility of violence. They are diverting public transportation, cars and bicyclists, with only one access point by foot at Marina Gate — itself a mile from the rally site along the beach. To minimize risk and maximize discomfort, officials are prohibiting 26 categories of items, including all weapons and ammunition, large backpacks, bicycles, helmets, balloons, aerosol cans, sticks of any kind and water that is not in factory-sealed plastic bottles.
Despite his message of “peace, love and prayer,” Gibson has been accused of inciting the violence that accompanied his recent events in Berkeley and Portland, especially through his use of the far-right, anti-government Oath Keepers militia as security.
To some extent, Gibson said, that is true. But he said he does not instigate violence by throwing punches or yelling at others for their opinions.
“I don’t instigate by being a bad person,” Gibson said in an interview with the Public Press. “I instigate just by existing.”
Top officials, activists and residents anticipate trouble, however. They have condemned Gibson and his rallies, which have attracted white supremacists and other right-wing extremists, leading to clashes with counterprotesters. Nonetheless, the city’s political heavyweights — Mayor Ed Lee, Board of Supervisors President London Breed, Police Chief William Scott, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — failed to persuade the National Park Service.
“The shameful, anti-American trend of hate-filled extremist rallies will unfortunately be allowed to continue this weekend in our city,” Lee said in a statement Wednesday after the Park Service approved Gibson’s permit.
Cicely Muldoon, the general superintendent for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said in a statement that the National Park Service “cannot deny a permit to anyone planning to exercise their First Amendment rights based on their political stance or beliefs.”
Muldoon added that the park can deny an application for public safety reasons, but law enforcement officials said that issuing a permit with significant conditions would increase their ability to ensure public safety. Park Service law enforcement personnel from around the country will be joined by a massive San Francisco police turnout for the rally, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Crissy Field Beach.
Counterprotests are planned throughout the city as well, with street closures and parking restriction at Civic Center, where several groups plan to converge.
Pastor Megan Rohrer, who is organizing one of the counterprotests, said the goal is to stand against Gibson’s message and the white supremacists who sometimes attend his events, triggering violence. For example, in an Aug. 6 rally in Portland, members and a local leader of the white-nationalist group Identity Evropa marched with Patriot Prayer and initiated or took part in violent brawls along the way.
Rohrer said that hate speech is not free speech and pointed out that Gibson “incorporates a lot of symbols and the coded language of these white supremacy groups,” which conflicts with his stated message of peace and prayer.
In a mediated conversation on Tuesday, Rohrer addressed this issue with Gibson, along with the fact that his promotional material often includes violent music and images. Rohrer said Gibson is aware of these allusions, so it is hard to believe he is not making them deliberately.
But Rohrer said Gibson does not preach supremacist views, which is part of why counterprotests will occur in the Castro and the Mission, not at Crissy Field. A separate group of activists will still meet Patriot Prayer supporters by the bay.
“I’m not protesting Joey, I’m protesting white supremacy,” Rohrer said, adding that they chose the locations because “we want to make sure that in the places that people are susceptible to hate crimes on a regular basis that there are communities there to support them, that people aren’t out alone.”
In an effort to dispel remaining accusations of white supremacy, Gibson scheduled speakers who range not only in their political views, but are also racially and ethnically diverse like himself — even though he said he does not believe that race should matter.
The event’s Facebook page advertises that speakers include three African-Americans, two Hispanics, one Asian, one Samoan, one Muslim, two women — one of whom identifies as transgender — and one white male.
But Rohrer criticized the choices. One was recently charged with felony assault and another claimed there were too many Muslims in the country.
“Almost every one of these speakers speaks in a way that promotes violence or insinuates violence,” Rohrer said.
Gibson said the various speakers can say “what they want,” but Gibson named several groups that will not be permitted to share their views: neo-Nazis, communists, Antifa (or antifascists), white supremacists and white nationalists. Gibson also said that, unlike some of his past events, the rally has a permit, which allows law enforcement to prevent white supremacists from entering, though critics remain dubious of that promise.

“I'm going to continue bringing moderates together, and I refuse to let politicians, society, hate or all of this stuff silence me,” Gibson said.
He purposely holds events in liberal strongholds like Berkeley, Seattle and his base in Portland, Oregon. Ahead of a peaceful Aug. 13 rally in Seattle, the day after Charlottesville, Gibson explained his philosophy on Facebook:
The West Coast has slowly been infected with communist ideologies throughout our entire culture. It is a belief that the individual is weak and that we are all victims. This is the lie of the century. No matter who you are, we are all amazing people with the ability to do anything that we put our minds to. These liberal strongholds run off of hatred and negativity. Patriot Prayer will bring in a positive message to Seattle that the people are starving for. With light we will change the hearts and minds of those who are surrounded by darkness.
“We try to pick the towns where there's a lot of intolerance,” Gibson told the Public Press. “The majority of citizens in San Francisco are really just good liberals, you know, who have good hearts and have good morals. The problem, though, in these big cities … the ones that are the most hateful are the loudest.”
“I hope that people can leave the rally understanding how much deception was put in before this rally from the politicians, from certain media outlets,” he said. “Because they were told one thing by certain groups, certain protesters, certain politicians, media and stuff. But then they can come in there and be like, OK, this is not a white supremacist rally.”
Rohrer hopes that the counterprotests will have higher turnout than the rally so they can spread a message of inclusion.
“We want there to be no ambiguity about what is hate speech and what equality looks like,” Rohrer said.
In Berkeley, officials denied a permit for a “No to Marxism in America” rally  on Sunday that was to be hosted by one of the scheduled speakers at Crissy Field, Amber Cummings, who is transgender. Authorities said that the request was filed too late and that Cummings had not provided crucial details, such as proper identification and information on how she would ensure safety at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. Thousands of counterprotestors will still attend a “Rally Against Hate” in Berkeley to promote solidarity against intimidation and violence.

Monday, August 21, 2017

In the News: Kron4

reposted from:

San Francisco wants conservative rally, counterprotest miles apart in hopes of avoiding violent clash

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — KRON4 is less than a week away from a so-called Freedom Rally at Crissy Field, which city officials say is sponsored by the alt-right.
And while the United States Park Service still has not made a final decision about issuing the group called “Patriot Prayer,” a permit, San Francisco is still making plans for counterprotests, which are slated for another location.
In hopes of preventing a repeat of the Charlottesville clash between white supremacists and their opponents, the City of San Francisco is planning to host two counterprotests at Civic Center Plaza, more than 4 miles away from Patriot Prayer’s Crissy Field rally that’s set for Saturday afternoon.
“We think that will help by not engaging and therefore dignifying the Patriot’s movements and their hate message and their violent message,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said. “We think that’s the best alternative.”
On Monday, the mayor met behind closed doors with a cross-section of San Francisco leaders as well as event organizers.
The plans call for a political rally Friday at noon on the steps of City Hall, so residents can speak out on the issues of race and hate.
The Saturday at noon rally is more of a family event titled San Francisco Peacefully Unites Against White Nationalists.
“For people who want to express alternative principles, inclusion, love, all the values that I think are valuable and reflect San Francisco values,” Lee said.
“The day will begin with music and no political rallies,” Grace Lutheran Church Pastor Megan Rohrer said. “A place that’s safe for kids, and there will be lots of events around the space.”
While this event and the other are set for the Civic Center, there are still at least two groups that plan to show up at Crissy field and face off against hate groups saying, “The time for passive tolerance is over.”
San Francisco’s police chief has been advising the National Park Service about ways to keep the Crissy field event safe should they issue final approval.
“The foremost condition on any permit, if they are insistent on issuing one, is no weapons concealed or otherwise,” Lee said.

Friday, July 28, 2017

In the News: 48 HIlls

SF rally responds to Trump’s transgender military ban

'We put our asses on the line for this country'
Kody Horton stepped up to the mic tonight at Harvey Milk Plaza and delivered a message to Donald Trump:
“Myself and other LGBT veterans put their asses on the line for this country and the Constitution,” the 43-year-old transgender Navy veteran said. “All I ask is for the same goddam rights that we protect your asses for. I did not put my life on the line to be shit on.”
Kody Horton addresses the rally
The plaza was packed with people, shouting and chanting and cheering. The city’s response to Trump’s Twitter announcement that transgender people can’t serve in the military was instant, strong, and visible.
People at the rally were not all fans of the military. Rev. Megan Rohrer said that she’s a pacifist, but that people who want to serve – “when I can’t” – should have the same rights as anyone else. “Our love is bigger than his hate.”
But the message was clear: You can’t call people a “distraction.” As one speaker named Alex noted, “a distraction is what you call it when it’s not your problem.”
I watched a pair of retired military brass tonight on CNN, and the two (straight) white guys said there was no evidence anywhere that transgender soldiers and sailors are a threat to unit coherence or military readiness.

It doesn’t make any difference, Admiral John Kirby said.
That’s the message I heard over and over today: “In close quarters, your lives depend on each other,” Horton told me. “Nobody cares. The only thing you care about is if someone can do the job.”
Horton, a transgender man, served in the Navy from 1992 to 1996, mostly as an aviation technician in San Diego. That was in the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell era, and Horton said he served with a lot of LGBT people.
The crowd packed Harvey Milk Plaza
There was still a climate of fear, he noted, but most sailors knew that some of their colleagues were gay, and it made absolutely no difference to military effectiveness.
Horton went into the Navy in part because the military offered a chance to get an education. After four years, Horton used the GI bill to go to college.
But “I swore an oath to defend the Constitution,” Horton said. And that Constitution protects the right of everyone.
I ran into Theresa Sparks as the rally was turning into a march down Market St. Sparks, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and has been a transgender community activist for many years, told me that the Trump policy is going to terrify a lot of existing service members.
There are, by most estimates, at least 5,000 current active-duty service people who are transgender. “These are people who are dependent on the military for their paycheck, their housing, and their health care,” Sparks said.
Sparks said that the Veterans Administration paid for the hormones she took when she came to San Francisco and began her transition. What happens to the health care of all of those soldiers and sailors if they are suddenly kicked out of the military?
Nobody knows.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

In the News: NPR's All Things Considered

Reaction To Trump's Plan To Ban Transgender People From The Military

The president's announcement that he will ban transgender people from the military is generating strong reaction. Some say it's a diversionary tactic. Others say trans people affect unit cohesion.
Another tweet from President Trump took many by surprise yesterday when he said transgender troops would no longer be allowed to serve in the armed services. Today the Pentagon said it will not change its policies for transgender troops until it gets more details from the White House. Outside of Washington, reaction was strong from critics and supporters alike, as Scott Shafer of member station KQED reports.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Trans rights are under attack. What do we do?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Stand up, fight back.
SCOTT SHAFER, BYLINE: Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets last night in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood, epicenter of the city's LGBT community. Transgender people, veterans, religious leaders all turned out to protest President Trump's new policy on military service.
MEGAN ROHRER: For those who are putting themselves on the line and literally putting their skin at risk, the least we can do is to help them feel comfortable in their bodies as they fight for us.
SHAFER: That's Megan Rohrer, a transgender pastor, who turned out to protest the new policy and Trump's description of transgender troops as a financial burden on the military.
ROHRER: I think that soldiers are anything but a burden. I think they're people who are sacrificing their bodies. And the more that we can do to care for them so that their minds and bodies and spirits are whole and healthy, the stronger our military will be.
SHAFER: Also there Travis Smith, a gay veteran who spent eight years in the Navy.
TRAVIS SMITH: From serving myself in the military with multiple different sexualities of people, I've never seen a burden to the military or how it affected their I guess oath of service. So I just disagree 100 percent.
SHAFER: Of course, the president's announcement has its supporters, too. Retired Air Force veteran Larry Cain, who lives in San Diego, says Trump did the right thing.
LARRY CAIN: In the battlefield, you're there to kill and break things. And we don't need time out to, oh, I'm having a hormone disorder now. I need time out. The cohesion isn't there.
SHAFER: Cain, who served in Vietnam, says he doesn't much care if transgender personnel work office jobs as long as they're kept off the battlefield.
CAIN: It just doesn't work. Too much - not so much resentment 'cause there is skepticism and the perception that you may not be able to count on that conflicted person to be there when you need them.
SHAFER: Studies by the RAND Corporation found that integrating transgender troops into the military would have minimal financial costs and little impact on readiness. Before he retired two years ago, San Franciscan William Reed spent 33 years in the Army and Air Force. He thinks the president's announcement was meant to distract attention from other issues like the Russia investigation. And he says he doesn't trust Trump's judgment on military issues.
WILLIAM REED: Especially for someone who never served before and doesn't understand in the military how you depend on your brother and your sister next to you, and it's irregardless (ph) of what that person is - being black, white, Jewish, whatever.
SHAFER: The president's early-morning tweets leave many questions unanswered, especially for transgender troops currently on active duty. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says all service members will continue to be treated with respect. Transgender veterans like Teresa Sparks from San Francisco are worried. Sparks spent eight years in the Navy, including three years in Vietnam. Now she wonders how the new policy could affect people like her.
TERESA SPARKS: Is he going to cut off my benefits because I was a veteran and served? Will I no longer be able to buy a house under the GI Bill? Will I no longer get education benefits? Will I no longer get health care?
SHAFER: Questions like those did not seem to be taken into consideration when the president announced his policy change via Twitter. Those directly affected by it are waiting for answers. For NPR News, I'm Scott Shafer in San Francisco.
Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.