So, every year here in San Francisco on the day before the parade, there’s the Dyke March and Pink Saturday. There’s a lot of important history behind both of those things, and I recommend investigating them beyond this post. Every year, I go to both, which is pretty easy to do because the Dyke March goes from Dolores Park, down the traditional march route through the Mission District, and then ends back up in the Castro, where everyone chills out, dances, drinks, eats, and the streets are closed to cars for the party (called Pink Saturday). It’s a “take back the night” sort of event.
This year, something changed with who runs the organization of the combined event. I’m an outsider so I don’t have all the details on a lot of this, but I can tell you what happened as far as I understand it. Usually the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence organize it, and get donations to do so during the event. They do a really amazing job every year, security is tight but that’s reassuring, and the streets are clear and clean by midnight. The morning after Pink Saturday, you’ll walk out into the Castro and you can’t really tell that 100,000 people were just partying wildly in the street.
But the Sisters didn’t run it this year. Someone ran it who had no fucking idea what they were doing. And they had the entirely non-brilliant idea of changing the time of the march, the march route, and the time of the event’s shutdown. It not being the Sisters’ event, they couldn’t call it Pink Saturday and tried to re-brand it as “Pink Party.” I heard, from people in the street while everyone was asking what the fuck was going on (I’ll get to that in a minute), that proper community outreach wasn’t done, and the new schedule was probably going to impact the services at local churches, who usually re-schedule their Saturday services around the march.
Anyway, they decided to start the Dyke March 2 1/2 hours early. Before they started it, they ranted on the microphone about how they were saving the Dyke March, and talked shit about the Sisters, which was really fucking classless and disrespectful. They spoke as if they were going to run it form now on. Then they said, let’s march.
The Dykes on Bikes revved their engines, parked around the corner from where they traditionally park, now out of view of Dolores Park. There were much fewer than usual. The new organizers started the march. And everyone was completely confused.
Before they started the march, Dolores Park and the surrounding area looked like this:
After they started the march, and marched away with some of the people, Dolores Park and the surrounding area looked like this:
This is when all us total strangers started asking each other what the hell was going on. We stood there, wondering what to do. My friends asked if we should go with the march, and I said I didn’t want to, that I wanted to see what might happen. After a few minutes of nothing, we decided to go to the Big Gay Karaoke House Party we go to every year, which is along the old Dyke March route — used to be you could sit on the porch and cheer on the dykes as they went by.
So we walked past a barrier of motorcycle cops, and another gate, and just outside the gate, I turned around and saw this:
I told my friends to stop. I walked out into traffic. And saw a wall of dykes, marching. Through the cops, who decided there were too many to stop. (I have it on good authority one of the cops actually high-fived one of the marchers.)
I stayed in the middle of the intersection. The wall surged forward, over the barrier and into the intersection of Guerrero and 18th.
They were chanting. They were powerful. They were angry, and it was a righteous anger.
They were taking back the Dyke March.
And the march was massive. Blocks and blocks of women smiling and yelling, “Whose streets? OUR STREETS! Whose streets? OUR STREETS!” And I yelled with them, shooting photos with one hand and making a fist in the air with the other one.
I went to take a picture of this person, and they said no — you belong in the photo, and pulled me in.
We all walked with the march down to our house party, and then parked our platforms and drank beer on the porch, cheering on the dykes, who streamed past for a long time.
Upstairs later, I noticed this new paint job on 18th:
After some epic gay karaoke, we ambled out to get food, and people were literally dancing in the street all down 18th, in front of Bi-Rite, and they were insanely happy, and friendly. But then at 7, the police started clearing the street, and the street sweepers came (this usually happens at midnight). People danced on the sidewalk — until the cops cleared them along. There were tons of police, it was way too early to kick everyone out, and they were visibly frustrated.
We walked back to my apartment, and saw that they were trying to shut down the Castro, too — four hours before the party usually ends. Before dark. If you’ve ever been to Pink Saturday, or you know anything about it, you know that this makes no sense, and it flies in the face of why being in the Castro on that night (night in particular) is important.
I noticed that one half of the event had like no police, and security was so lax in places that it was worrying (we weren’t checked, or stopped, or anything). So, I really hope everyone gets home safe tonight. Like, please.
I hope The City gives the Sisters everything they need — like, MONEY and support — to run the event next year.
If you want to see all the photos I took of the Dyke March, they’re in this Flickr album. I’m in the Pride parade tomorrow with Senator Mark Leno, so if you watch it on TV — look for me!