Slammed by noted activist and blogger Michael Petrelis as "a pathetic Sisters event more interested in being full of Kumbaya feelings and promoting two lame politicians," Saturday's Stop the Violence campaign, sparked by recent gay bashing incidents in the Castro, allegedly turned into more of a Dennis Herrera-for-Mayor-ish rally than an urgent call for action. Or not.
I got there late, just as city attorney and mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera was finishing up a speech and was angry the event was being used by a politician seeking higher office. Why was he the only mayoral wannabee allowed to speak, and not the dozen or so others running for the office?
As Supervisor Wiener took the bottom-less plastic beer cup serving as the megaphone, I yelled at him to bring democracy to the Castro and the control of the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza. I noticed two Herrera campaign workers in the crowd with posters for their guy. A Sister and a guy from the Castro on Patrol group tried to shut me up, with no luck, and Wiener became too flustered from my yelling to continue talking.
Which, yes, we must concur. Having underlings appear at a gay bashing protest with self-serving signage is several shades of gross. That said, Petrelis raises an interesting point: Why was Herrera the only mayoral candidate there? Is he, our fearless heterosexual City Attorney, that concerned with local LGBT ilk getting harassed and/or beaten while strolling in their neighborhood? Or, more likely, is he out there to get the queer vote? Still, it was nice to see at least one candidate appear at the rally. (For what it's worth, we saw a sharp-looking John Avalos marching in the Pistahan Parade. It was an event-heavy weekend.)
Fellow social justice advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who also showed up at the sparsely attended rally, went on to note:
For anyone who was there, the Sisters march against anti-gay violence was a disaster. Not a lot of people showed (funny, huh, considering we all had 24-48 hours notice and even CUAV didn't know about it when I spoke to them yesterday). Frankly, it seemed more like a rally for Herrera for mayor than anything else, with only two speakers, Dennis Herrera and Scott Weiner, who is supporting Herrera.
I had asked to speak this morning, but was told via facebook by a sister friend of mine, "She (Sister Pat 'n' Leather) says that her focus is very specific about cleansing negative energy right now. If possible, she'll see what she can do but most likely there won't be time."
At a time when the Castro Benefits District is spending countless hours debating removing benches from Harvey Milk Plaza because condo owners complain about the homeless sleeping there, we need accountability from our politicians and our organizations about what they're doing about increased anti-gay violence in the Castro. And that's what I told the Sisters I wanted to address -- the issue of so much money being wasted on harassing the homeless when gay men are being beaten less than a block from Milk Plaza.
It's a matter of priorities. Condo owners get immediate police response because they have money and the ear of Scott Wiener. What do the rest of us get? Unsafe streets to cruise and walk down when we go to bars or to socialize in "our" hood.
Update: Dennis Herrera's office contacted us today for their side of the story, saying that it was all just an amazing, shocking, eerie coincidence. Herrera's New Media Director Melissa Blaustein told us: "The Stop the Violence Campaign's rally was not a Dennis Herrera for Mayor campaign event. Dennis was invited to the event by Supervisor Wiener earlier that morning, and when he arrived the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence asked him if he'd like to say a few words. He spoke about public safety and his work as City Attorney to keep the neighborhood safe. He was scheduled to be in the Castro that afternoon for a merchant walk with Supervisor Wiener, which was a campaign event. So there were a number of Herrera supporters and staffers in the area."