The two-day, guerrilla drag extravaganza two weekends ago in San Francisco went off mostly without a hitch, though we're now hearing about a situation in which two performers were harangued by a man on the street who didn't appreciate their form of protest.
With 100 drag performers doing pop-up shows on dozens of streets corners around the city over two afternoons, San Francisco Is a Drag was a first-of-its-kind event sponsored by the recently established Civic Joy Fund. The performances happened in different neighborhoods each hour, focusing on downtown and SoMa on Saturday, and in the Haight, Mission, Hayes Valley, and Castro on Sunday. And during each hour, different sets of three performers would be on at least a half dozen street corners, performing simultaneously.
Each corner had its own designated volunteer sound engineer, and a wireless speaker on wheels with microphone.
Some of these performances included acts and signs of protest concerning the war in Gaza, and one of those happened at the intersection of Haight and Cole streets on Sunday. Drag performer King Lotus Boy read a statement in support of Palestine, and was supported by several other protesters, including drag king Harddeep Singh, at least one of whom was carrying a sign encouraging a boycott of Manny's.
Manny's, the cafe and political event space at 16th and Valencia, has long been a target of protest by supporters of Palestinians, and Jewish owner Manny Yekutiel has frequently been called a Zionist. Also, Yekutiel is one of the cofounders of the Civic Joy Fund, which was underwriting San Francisco Is a Drag.
Harddeep posted a statement on December 3 describing an incident in which a man, angry about the anti-Manny's sign, approached the performers as Lotus Boy was reading their statement. The man allegedly said "Manny is a good man! He is a Zionist and a good man! I am a Zionist and these are our streets!"
Harddeep further alleges that the man spat at them, took photos, and said, "Go back to where you came from," and that he also circled back to harass them again.
"I didn't know what he was going to do," Harddeep says. "I reluctantly admit, it was terrifying."
Harddeep further explains that the 'SF Is a Drag' volunteer then shut down the performance and took the wireless speaker away — and video from the incident shows the volunteer calling the protest "inappropriate" and saying, "Now is the time for this to stop."
"It was completely inappropriate for a Civic Joy event," the volunteer says.
Harddeep posted about the incident on Instagram, asking organizers to acknowledge that they should have had more security at the event, and asking them for a "public statement of unapologetic solidarity with Palestine."
Today, organizers Juanita MORE!, Honey Mahogany, and D'Arcy Drollinger issued a joint statement in response.
It says, in part, "Our goal [with SF Is a Drag] was to highlight the beauty and diversity of our San Francisco drag family, all while financially supporting the performers who make our community so special... Given what is happening in the world, numbers calling for the liberation of the Palestinian people and an end to genocide were welcomed. And to be clear, we join the chorus of voices in calling for a permanent ceasefire, and we fully acknowledge that the freedom, sovereignty, and safety of the Palestinian people is directly connected to ours and to humanity as a whole."
It goes on to say that the organizers were "deeply troubled" to hear about the confrontation in the Upper Haight, and saying they "condemn the assailant's actions."
"The lack of on-site security and our reliance on volunteers who were untrained in de-escalation for this type of situation was a significant oversight," they add. "We take full responsibility for the performer and volunteer interaction... We are incredibly sorry to King Lotus Boy and their supporters, especially Harddeep, who went through this and the distress it has caused our community."
While the Civic Joy Fund sought donations for the event, the fund is partly underwritten by philanthropist Daniel Lurie, the Levi's heir who is running for mayor of San Francisco next year.
It remains to be seen if San Francisco Is a Drag will have a repeat performance in 2024.
Photo via HoneyMahogany/Instagram