Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Video from yesterday's protest march

Prop 8 Protest March

Goodness, YouTube can take for-freakin'-ever to load and process HD video!

So, anyhow, I edited this quickly last night after I got home about 11:30. Then it took four hours this morning to upload the file to YouTube, and another couple of hours for the video to be processed into an HD version.

Three things I want to point out in the video:

(1) around 45 seconds into the video, please notice the numbers of police guarding the entrances to the State Building. I assume this is in response to the AB101 riots of 1991. Then-governor Pete Wilson had promised to sign the state gay rights bill (AB101) when he returned to his office. When he got there, he changed his mind at the last minute and vetoed it. People in San Francisco went to the old State Building to protest this flagrant betrayal, and it turned nasty -- windows were broken, and an office was set on fire. So one cannot blame them for guarding this building. Still, it reminded me a little bit of the riot police that were running around at the US Supreme Court in 1988 at the Bowers v Hardwick protest. That was a memorable protest.

(2) At about 3:20, that's Marga Gomez, the only celebrity I saw that far back in the march.

(3) The band brought up the rear of the march. Unfortunately, this means that you can't get a real idea of exactly how many people were in front of us. Chip ran ahead and got shots of some of the crowd, but the full march was at least two or three city blocks long.

Here are my notes from the event:

First, we were not able to attend either of the rallies (neither the one at City Hall nor the one at Yerba Buena Gardens). At City Hall, we were gathering and preparing to march to Yerba Buena. Then when the march got to Yerba Buena, we all had to leave immediately for (surprise!) regular Tuesday night band practice. That's why the video is only of the march from Civic Center to YBG.

The band did a good job of not engaging. Toward the end, someone shouted very angrily at us, "Why are you celebrating!" My own answer would be that we're not celebrating. But at the same time we're not rending our garments, moaning laments and acting like victims. For thirty years, the band has always come out with "California, Here I Come" and "San Francisco." We have even been known to play "This Is My Country." We're laying our claim, asserting our presence and the fact that we're not going to hide.

Marching at the rear of a march like this is kind of like having to sit at the back of the F-Market -- all the crazies gather there. And they want to talk to you. A lot.

On our way out, we went to Powell Street Station. There was a man (I'm not entirely convinced that he wasn't at least a little bit drunk) standing near the MUNI gates and yelling, "Yes on 8! The will of the people has been done! Deal with it!" and similar guaranteed crowd pleasing remarks. Everyone (ourselves included) gave him a wide berth, again, not engaging him. But I heard a lot of people muttering their responses to themselves out of his hearing.

So I was relieved that the protest was so peaceful. Last week, a couple of people posted things about police barriers being dropped off in the Castro as a sign that the police knew that the decision was coming. A lot of people reacted to these postings by assuming that this meant that the police actually knew the content of the decision and were assuming there would be riots. It reached a point where a few of these people almost seemed to hope that there would be riots. I didn't ever buy into this. First, if the police knew the nature of the decision, it would have leaked. I saw notes on Facebook that clearly indicated that the police had tipped off various groups that the decision was coming. If they'd known what the decision was, they'd have said that as well. Further, the same group that planned the Prop 8 protests last fall have been planning the "Day of Decision" rallies ever since the CA Supreme Court took up the case -- if the court upheld Prop 8, it would be a protest, and if they reversed it, it would be a celebration, so there would be some massive event in all cases. For the police to put out barriers only indicated to me that (a) they knew that the decision was coming and (b) they were just preparing to block traffic so people could have the streets. But enough people kept pushing for riots that I wasn't sure that people would keep cool heads, so I wasn't entirely convinced that at least some people wouldn't try to instigate some kind of violence.

In the end, happily, people kept their heads (to the extent one could hope, given the circumstances), no violence broke out that I witnessed, and the police barriers were used (as I had guessed) to block Market Street when a late impromptu march started from Castro to Civic Center. And when they changed their minds and went back to Castro Street, the police moved the barriers to stop traffic from going down Castro Street so the protestors could gather in the middle of the road.

No comments: