The annual pre-Pride celebration in the Castro known as Pink Saturday, much like Halloween in the Castro did several years ago, has outgrown its more innocently festive, neighborhood roots and is threatened with cancellation. This year, one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who have served as organizers and gatekeepers of the event over the last two decades was assaulted by roving teens along with her husband on June 29 at 18th and Castro. And now, as Castro Biscuit reports, the Sisters are debating options for limiting the scope of the gathering next year, altering the hours, or canceling the event altogether.
Pink Saturday dates back to 1991, and the Sisters have been running the event since 1995, collecting donations at the gate and organizing performance stages and security. For the better part of the last ten years, the event has meant massive and sometimes raucous crowds in the streets of the Castro, many of whom are not LGBT teens, but who are underage youths from San Francisco and beyond who arrive in the neighborhood in search of a party.
In the case of 2010's Pink Saturday, a 20-year-old with a gun shot three people, one of them fatally, around 11:30 p.m. as revelers were clearing the area. That led to threats of cancelation and, ultimately, new rules around alcohol in the streets at 2011's event. 2012's Pink Saturday went off without a hitch, but in 2013, multiple people were reportedly robbed by a group of five Oakland youths, and 23-year-old Christopher Porter-Bailey was convicted and sentenced to six years for the robbery and brutal assault of a 28-year-old woman that was caught on surveillance tape. That event once again led to community meetings and discussions of canceling the event.
Security at this year's fest included metal-detector wands at the gates, 80 private security guards, as well as the SFPD. This year's attack on one of the Sisters has been taken especially seriously not only because the Sisters organize the event, but because it involved seven individuals spewing homophobic remarks and perpetrating physical abuse on LGBT people in the Castro, on Pride Weekend, in the middle of what used to be a big gay party. As far as we know, no suspects in that attack have been identified.
A lot of locals have been freaked out by the intensity and drunken energy of the event in recent years, most escaping to private house parties in the neighborhood or avoiding the area altogether. Local drag star Peaches Christ took to Facebook this year saying "SHUT IT DOWN" in response to the attack on one of the Sisters. The difficulty in choosing to not manage the crowds at all is the fact that a number of tourists come into the Castro for Pride weekend, and the number of people who flow toward the neighborhood naturally following Dyke March, which wraps up around 7 or 8 p.m. that same evening.
Sister Selma Soul, who's taken charge of the event for the last three years, tells the Biscuit, "The demographic shifts after 8:30," and the current official end time is 10:15 following that murder in 2010. One suggestion is simply making the event even earlier, beginning it before 5 p.m. and ending it earlier as well.
Another option may be to transition the event to a third party organizer. The Sisters expect to make a decision about how to move forward later this year, and will communicate their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.