Pride Board locks out press, protesters at public comment meeting

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Protestor Nakh outside the Pride Board meeting at the Golden Gate Business Association office

"Let the press in! Let the press in!" the crowd of about 50-60 Bradley Manning for Grand Marshal supporters chanted yesterday evening at 7pm, packed into the lobby of the Golden Gate Business Association on Pearl Street, after being denied entrance to the elevator leading to the Pride Board meeting on the fourth floor. A hired security guard held the crowd, which included reporters from KTVU and KQED, back and the elevator doors closed for the last time as "No cameras, no justice!" filled the air. 

The word came via the significant police presence outside the building (officers were also posted outside the building's stairwell) that only 15 people at a time were being allowed into the board meeting, which was held to accept "public comment" on the Bradley manning controversy. The meeting was also supposedly held to address any questions about its official statement, released yesterday afternoon, rescinding Manning's election as Grand Marshal because he was "not local."

No one there, it was clear, was getting in. 

Safety hazards were cited. Surely, some protesters put forth, the Pride Board knew it would need a bigger space to address the community's concern -- like, say, the LGBT Community Center across the street? 

Scene inside the lobby after being denied entrance to the Pride Board public comment meeting

(Blogger Michael Petrellis did manage to get into the sparsely occupied meeting by arriving early and begging to use the bathroom. You can read his report here.)

Among the protesters outside were Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, who spoke eloquently at a previous demonstration defending Manning. (He eventually made it into the meeting, along with a few other high-profile community representatives like Gary Virginia, Carol Queen, Starchild, Lisa Geduldig, and Rainey Reitman of the Bradley Manning Support Network.) Also present outside were members of Code Pink, ACT UP/SF, and the Gray Panthers.

Waiting on the street was attorney David Waggoner, who that day had filed an official discrimination complaint with the city's Human Rights Commission. The complaint alleges that "the Pride Board syomped on the moral convictions of the grand marshals who voted for Manning. SF Pride -- a recipient of City funding -- is not allowed to discriminate against people just because they don't like their moral support of Manning."

The Pride Board ended its meeting early, and a representative said that it would plan another in a more appropriate -- hopefully meaning bigger -- venue. 

As usual, queer activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca put everything into perspective.

"I know it's 40 years ago and I'm old, but I was at the first Gay Freedom march in Philadelphia in 1972 -- and we were oficially protesting the war in Vietnam. How did we come to this -- standing outside the corporate offices of Pride and shouting for them to let a military protestor, from the military itself, into their parade -- into our parade?"

As the Manning supporters took to the streets and shouted "You say court martial, we say grand marshal!" from the nearby F-Market stop, Patricia Jackson, convener of the Gray Panthers, added:

"If Pride is about inclusion, how can they shut us out -- of the meeting, of the conversation? The only way to heal any divide in a community is to accept that people have different views, and make things bigger than that."  

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