Hundreds gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza in the heart of San Francisco's primarily gay Castro District to call for unity and to say no to hate on Saturday August 26.
The rally took place just as a small contingent of white nationalists were holding a "Patriot Prayer" at the city's Alamo Square Park about a mile away. Patriot Prayer was organized by Joey Gibson, who had organized the recent ill-fated white nationalist march in Charlottesville, VA.
Originally scheduled for Crissy Field, a park which lies in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, "Patriot Prayer" was abruptly switched to Alamo Square Park on Friday with little publicity--some have opined that the change was made due to high levels of recent backlash against white nationalist groups.
The Castro rally was followed by a peaceful march--people were dancing joyfully as they marched.
Classic tunes such as Lionel Richie's "All Night Long," Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" blared over loudspeakers as many sang along.
As the Castro marchers made their way towards Civic Center Plaza in the Mid-Market District, another group of marchers merged in from Dolores Street. Across the street from the San Francisco LGBT Center, the It's Tops coffee shop displayed two Rainbow Flags, one with the flag's traditional colors, the other with black and brown added--this was meant to represent people of color.
The Castro rally was organized by San Francisco drag icon Juanita MORE! The rally's speaker's included MORE!, drag artist Honey Mahogany, Roberto Ordenana of the SF LGBT Center, and Rabbi Katie Mizrahi, among many others, all of whom called for unity, for an end to the Trump presidency, and for community members to support the trans community--President Trump issued a directive banning from transgenders from military service the day before the rally. There were also calls to support undocumented immigrants, for an end to Islamaphobia, and to never back down in the fight for full LGBT equality.
"It was an immensely horrible experience to see the President defend Nazis and white supremacists," 53-year-old Elizabeth Houseman told SFGN as the Castro march was beginning. "I can't be silent while he does that. I'm happy to see so many people here--it's wonderful. I hope we're sending a message."
George Woyames, 73, a gay man, was marching with the San Francisco Labor Council.
"Because it's our lives, our rights," he said. "If we let the hate and the Nazi flag fly again, then there goes our rights. When I saw what happened in Charlotteville, that's when I said no."
Woyames noted all those who died in the World War II concentration camps. "Now we have a president who openly encourages every kind of racism and prejudice," he said. "We are all at risk."
Kristian Martinez, 42, who is also gay, said he was "disappointed" with the Trump presidency.
"It's one thing after another," he said. "We're unified against him--it makes me feel good to see this."
For her part, Honey Mahogany was thrilled by the turn out.
"There are many ways to protest and show solidarity," she told SFGN. "We need all of them. I'm really excited to be hosting this event with Juanita which allows people the option of actively participating in a demonstration that does not engage the white supremacists and further their agenda."
"More than ever people need to stand up and speak out," said Manny Sanchez, who works with Juanita MORE! "As a gay Latino man I know that silence equals death and consent. The louder are voices the more powerful we are."
The marchers reached Civic Center Plaza around 2:30 p.m., where they joined an already-in-progress rally which remained peaceful.