Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Defendant in student burning case appears in court


Luke Sasha Fleischman

The boy charged with setting fire to a gender non-conforming Oakland teen appeared in Alameda County Superior Court Tuesday (November 26) as his attorney worked to have him charged as a juvenile.

Richard Allen Thomas, 16, allegedly used a lighter to set fire to the skirt of Luke Sasha Fleischman, 18, as Fleischman slept on an AC Transit bus November 4. Fleischman, who’s also of Oakland, has been in the hospital recovering from serious burns.

Prosecutors have charged Thomas with aggravated mayhem and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Both counts carry a hate crime enhancement. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Thomas hasn’t entered a plea. He’s been charged as an adult, but William Du Bois, Thomas’s attorney, filed a motion Tuesday for his client to be charged as a juvenile. That motion is set to be heard December 20. During Tuesday’s hearing, Thomas, who was wearing a blue shirt that designated him as a juvenile, didn’t address the court   directly but briefly conferred with Du Bois.

Before Tuesday’s hearing, Du Bois said he’d just received video footage from the bus, along with Thomas’s recorded statement to police. He hasn’t yet reviewed the materials, but he said his understanding is that the bus footage is “fairly self-explanatory.”

Du Bois hasn’t disputed that Thomas set fire to Fleischman but has said, “As far as I can tell,” the incident “was the result of a juvenile prank that went horribly wrong.” He’s also said members of Thomas’s family are gay and “he doesn’t have a homophobic bone in his body.”

Thomas “seems to be holding up pretty well” and “getting the attention needs” in custody, said Du Bois Tuesday. Several members of Thomas’s family attended Tuesday’s hearing but declined to speak with reporters.

A good Samaritan who put out the flames on Fleischman recently said, “I have no idea” who started the blaze. “I just saw someone on fire who needed help.”

Since Thomas is a juvenile, Du Bois said that even he doesn’t have access to any previous criminal records the boy may have.

A staff member at Oakland High School, which Thomas had been attending at the time of the incident, has said in an email that Thomas “was only a student at our school this year, and his attendance was terrible during that short time. … He’s been to several schools in the [district] in the last few years.”

Du Bois said Tuesday that it was “exaggerated” to say that Thomas had missed a lot of school. He said Thomas has “had some educational challenges,” and “difficulty learning, but nothing of a debilitating nature.” He didn’t yet know whether his client had had any diagnoses.

Sasha Fleischman prefers “they,” “them,” and “their,” when people refer to them in the third person, according to Karl Fleischman, their father.

People wishing to make donations to assist Fleischman may go to

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 26, 2013 @ 4:28 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man who aided burning Oakland teen recalls scene

Dan Gale (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Dan Gale (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

One of the good Samaritans who put out the flames on Luke Sasha Fleischman after someone set fire to the agender Oakland teen recently said only one other person aided Fleischman on the crowded bus, but he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

Richard Allan Thomas, 16, of Oakland, has been charged with aggravated mayhem and assault after he put a lighter to the skirt Fleischman was wearing as they rode an AC Transit bus November 4 in Oakland. Both charges carry a hate crime enhancement. Thomas, who’s being charged as an adult, hasn’t entered a plea.

Dan Gale, 53, of Oakland, was recognized Wednesday, November 20 at the Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial in Oakland City Hall.

In an interview, said that he’d been riding in the middle of the long, packed number 57 bus that Monday night earlier this month when he “heard a commotion, looked back,” and saw Fleischman, who’s 18,
on fire.

“I had to push my way back” as other people, some of them youth who were laughing, ran away from the fire. The lower half of Fleischman’s body was in flames.

Gale, a construction worker, recalled thinking, “I can do this. It’s ok. I can handle this.” By the time he got back to Fleischman, said Gale, “the skirt was completely burning.”

He dove and went around Fleischman’s thighs to try to put out the fire.

“I used my sweatshirt a little bit,” but finally “ended up grabbing the skirt and ripping it off” of Fleischman, said Gale. He and the other person finally got the teen on the ground and put the fire out.

All Fleischman said was that someone had lit them on fire, and they had a look of “terror” and “fear,” said Gale. Fleischman was “really in shock.” They had “horrific”-looking burns all over their legs. (Sasha Fleischman prefers “they,” “them,” and “their,” when people refer to them in the third person, according to Karl Fleischman, Fleischman’s father.)

After the incident was over, the first thing that Fleischman wanted was their book, said Gale. Fleischman got off the bus and called their parents.

Gale said he didn’t see the person who started the fire, but “I heard one girl say, ‘Oh, you’re not gonna’ do that,’ kind of laughing about it.” He said he didn’t hear any name-calling or anything homophobic during the incident.

“I have no idea who did it,” he said, but “I just saw someone on fire who needed help.”

Gale said he doesn’t know who the other good Samaritan was.

When a TV reporter asked him about being a hero, Gale said, “I’m not a hero. I’m not a hero. … Somebody needed help. I did what I could do.” He added that to him, “a hero is a schoolteacher.”

Gale teared up during Wednesday’s ceremony, where interim Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent noted Oakland has “a reputation for crime,” but Gale’s actions show “there are very good people all over the city.”

William Du Bois, Thomas’s attorney, has referred to the incident as a “prank.”

Told of the remark, Gale said, “A prank? Lighting somebody on fire isn’t a prank,” it’s “trying to hurt somebody.”

Gale said he rides the 57 bus regularly and there are usually many “rowdy, rude kids” riding, “typical high school kids.”

Fleischman remains hospitalized, but their father recently said, “things are looking good.”

People wishing to make donations to assist Fleischman may go to

Funds raised beyond what’s needed will possibly go to an organization that deals with issues such as gender identity or anti-bullying, said Karl Fleischman.

Thomas’s next court hearing is set for Tuesday, November 26.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 21, 2013 @ 12:05 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Fundraiser for typhoon victims set for SF nightclub

A fundraiser to help victims of the deadly typhoon that recently hit the Philippines is set for 7 to 10 p.m., Sunday, November 24 at Club OMG, 43 Sixth Street, San Francisco.

(Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

(Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

“So many members of the LGBT community and friends are coming together and donating their time, talents, and money toward this event,” OMG co-owner Rakesh Modi said in a Facebook message. “It’s an epic event that brings together the community in a show of solidarity and support for the victims.”

Typhoon Haiyan made landfall November 7 in the Philippines, killing thousands of people and displacing millions.

Sunday’s fundraiser will feature DJs, comics, drag performances, and raffles. All of the net proceeds will be donated to the San Francisco-based Rainbow World Fund. The nonprofit has been working with the international CARE organization to help provide  emergency food, safe water, plastic for shelter, and other aid.

More information about the OMG event is available on Facebook.

Several other groups are also raising money for victims of the typhoon.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 20, 2013 @ 4:12 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Officials mark Transgender Day of Remembrance

Local and federal officials are recognizing the 15th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance Wednesday (November 20.)

The day, founded by Bay Area Reporter columnist Gwen Smith, honors those who have been lost due to anti-transgender violence and prejudice.


Luke Sasha Fleischman

One recent incident on many people’s minds is the burning earlier this month of agender high school student Luke Sasha Fleischman, 18, of Oakland, who was badly burned by another teen while riding a bus and remains hospitalized. A fundraising site has been established to help pay Fleischman’s medical bills and possibly aid gender idenity equality work.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement, “While much progress has been made in the last decade to advance transgender rights, anti-transgender violence sadly remains. A greater awareness is needed to end the bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence faced by the transgender community around the world.”

For years, San Francisco officials have worked to provide protections for transgender people in education, healthcare, and other areas, Lee noted.

“We remind all San Franciscans that transgender people are our family, our colleagues and our friends,” he said. “We recommit ourselves to ensure that no one is subjected to violence, discrimination or hatred simply because of one’s gender identity. No one should be denied the basic rights that ensure their safety in our city.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement, “The sad truth is that in too many places, including the United States, transgender persons continue to face violence and discrimination on a daily basis.”

That’s why officials “are engaging diplomatically to address the specific challenges faced by transgender persons,” said Kerry. “And that’s why we will continue to urge other governments to protect all of their citizens regardless of their gender identity.”

He said the Global Equality Fund is being used to increase support to organizations that are fighting bias-motivated violence targeting transgender people.

“The rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons are not special or separate or different,” said Kerry. “They are basic human rights.  And human rights are universal, not negotiable.”

In San Francisco, the annual Day of Remembrance event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. in the rainbow room at the LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.

In addition to those lost to violence, several other deceased trans leaders will be mourned, including Jazzie Collins, a longtime activist, and artist Christopher Lee.

In Oakland, the annual commemoration, sponsored by Tri-City Health Center’s TransVision program, will be held on the third floor of City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. The venue is accessible by the 12th Street BART station. The event will start at 5:15 p.m. and end by 6:30.

Among those remembered will be Brandy Martell, the 37-year-old transgender woman who was fatally shot in downtown Oakland in 2012. Oakland police say the investigation into her death remains active. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Oakland Police Department Homicide Division at (510) 238-3821 or call Crime Stoppers at (510) 777-8572.

In Berkeley, a Transgender Day of Remembrance event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the chapel on the Pacific School of Religion campus, 1798 Scenic Avenue.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:56 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Supervisors OK panel picks


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved applicants for several city panels.

First up, Jon Ballesteros and Maggie Weiland were approved to serve on the new advisory body tasked with selecting a terminal at San Francisco International Airport to name after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

Ballesteros is a gay Latino man who is vice president of public policy at San Francisco Travel, the city’s tourism bureau. Weiland is an analyst with the San Francisco Film Commission and the daughter of former Milk confidant Anne Kronenberg.

The supervisors can appoint four people to the panel, but as previously reported, the rules committee put off advancing two other names to the full board in hopes of finding more diverse applicants. It may reconsider the men, Alex Walker, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club’s political vice president; and Steven Guilliams, an engineer and code architect, at its meeting Thursday, November 21. Both are white.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Lee is expected to name five people to the committee. The panel will have three months to present its recommendations to the board and could also recommend names for all of the airport’s terminals, as well as boarding areas and control towers. There are three domestic terminals and an international terminal.

At its November 18 meeting the supervisors also approved out lesbian G. Joyce Pierson to serve on the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force. She fills the seat that became vacant when trans community activist Jazzie Collins died this summer.

Pierson, who came out in her 40s, is a psychotherapist in private practice.

Finally, the board approved gay city resident Patrick Carney to serve on the City Hall Preservation Advisory Committee. Carney, an architect, is best known locally for spearheading the annual pink triangle installation atop Twin Peaks during Pride weekend.

— Cynthia Laird, November 19, 2013 @ 6:23 pm PST
Filed under: News,Politics

Santa Clara sheriff’s office releases sketch in De Anza College sexual assault

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office on Thursday, November 14 released a sketch of a man suspected of sexually assaulting a De Anza College student on campus.

(The Santa Clara County Sheriff's office has released this sketch of a suspect in the De Anza College sexual assault case.)

(The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office has released this sketch of a suspect in the De Anza College sexual assault case.)

As the Bay Area Reporter reported in an online story this week, a female student, possibly a pansexual or transgender woman, reported that on Monday, November 4 she was sexually assaulted in the campus’ Media and Learning Center building’s first floor women’s bathroom. The victim, who is a 19-year-old student at De Anza College, stated the she was in the women’s restroom when the male suspect entered her bathroom stall and sexually assaulted her. The victim identified the suspect as a De Anza College student based on prior interactions she has had with him on campus, but said they are not friends and she does not know his true name. However, the victim believes he goes by “Johnny” based on her prior interaction with him.

A news release from the sheriff’s office described the suspect as either a white or Hispanic male in his early 20s, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing between 180 and 200 pounds. He has shoulder length dark brown hair, brown eyes, prominent acne in and around the chin area and clean-shaven. The suspect was last seen wearing a long sleeve, button-up, dark colored shirt with blue jeans.

Anyone with any information on the identity of this suspect, or information on this assault, is asked to contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office at (408) 808-4500 or if they wish to remain anonymous, please call (408) 808-4431.

For the B.A.R.‘s story, see

— Cynthia Laird, November 15, 2013 @ 4:01 pm PST
Filed under: News,Uncategorized

Local LGBTs host fundraisers for Philippines typhoon survivors

(Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

(Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

Various fundraising efforts are being launched in the Bay Area’s LGBT community to help the survivors of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines last week.

Also called Typhoon Yolanda, the tropical storm obliterated vast swaths of the island nation. News reports in recent days have recounted how food, water and other supplies are desperately needed.

A number of LGBT groups and community leaders in the Bay Area are responding to the call for help.

Robert Bernardo, a gay man who is president of the San Mateo County Harbor Commission, wrote on Facebook earlier this week that his family decided to donate to the typhoon charitable effort in lieu of giving out holiday gifts this year.

“If you are able to do the same, please do so,” wrote Bernardo, who was born in the Philippines and emigrated to the Bay Area with his family when he was two years old. “Think of how much money we could raise… Sorry Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping season, we have more important things to do!”

A party is being hosted at the Lookout, a gay bar in the Castro, tomorrow night (Friday, November 15) to help victims on several of the hardest hit islands. Items to be shipped to the Philippines for free will be collected, such as non-perishable food, medicines, clothing, toiletries.

There will also be a raffle and auction, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the victims in Tacloban and Bogo, Cebu through the Taclobanon Association of Southern California  and Rotary Club of Cebu West.

A number of local gay party promoters have donated tickets to their upcoming events, while several local hotels and restaurants have also donated prizes toward the raffle. The party goes from 5 to 9 p.m. at the bar, 3600 16th Street at Market Street.

Sunday, November 24 starting at 7 p.m. the gay South Asian club OMG is also hosting a typhoon fundraiser. The party will feature performances by Jethro Cuenca Patalinghug, Amoray Brougain, and Marco Middlesex.

There will also be comedy routines, drag queens, and dance music by DJs Jack Rojo and Sergio Fedasz. The club is located at 43 Sixth Street in San Francisco.

The Rainbow World Fund, an LGBT-headed humanitarian group based in San Francisco, is collecting donations designated for Typhoon aid on its website. Specify “Typhoon” when making a contribution.

The San Francisco Log Cabin Republican Club donated $100 on behalf of its members and asked them to send in individual donations to the World Food Programme.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee also urged city residents to do what they can for the typhoon survivors. He noted that those interested in donating can go to to get information about how to give to those on the ground and aiding in the recovery efforts.

“Our hearts go out to all of those who have suffered in the Philippines from possibly the world’s strongest storm,” stated Lee in a statement last Friday. “The people of the Philippines are in our thoughts and prayers today, and we will continue to support them in the days and months ahead as we learn the true impact caused by Typhoon Haiyan.”


— Matthew S. Bajko, November 14, 2013 @ 1:42 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Lee, Kim announce real estate deal to help arts groups

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim this week announced a real estate deal that will aid arts organizations that work with LGBTs and others.

Lee and Kim joined the new nonprofit Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) Wednesday, November 13 to announce the purchase of two buildings in the Central Market and Tenderloin neighborhoods.

One building, at 1007 Market Street, will allow the Luggage Store Gallery to stay and ultimately permit the gallery owners to assume full ownership of the building. The site had been at risk of sale due to private investors, according to Lee’s office. The area around 1007 Market is home to many low-income LGBTs, and work in the gallery often reflects life in the neighborhood.

Hospitality House Community Art Program, the gallery’s subtenant, will be able to sign a long term lease. The program is the only local free-of-charge fine arts studio.

CounterPULSE, a performing arts space that frequently features work by LGBTs, will take over the second building, which is at 80 Turk Street and which the mayor’s office referred to in a news release as an “underutilized former adult theater.” The building once housed the Doll House Theater.

CounterPULSE is currently located on Mission Street near Ninth Street. It will begin raising money to assume ownership of its new building and move in in early 2015.

“A major transformation is underway on Central Market, and arts are central to that revitalization,” stated Lee. “Long-time neighborhood institutions like CounterPULSE and The Luggage Store not only anchor the growing arts district but maintain the fabric of creative nonprofit organizations that characterize Central Market.”

Kim stated, “This is one solution the city can continue to support and expand in order to preserve what builds community and neighborhoods.”

CAST was recently formed by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the Northern California Community Loan Fund to support San Francisco’s efforts to help stabilize and expand arts groups as part of the Central Market Economic Strategy. The Rainin foundation committed $5 million over five years as seed funding which includes acquiring the sites. 

The city’s Grants for the Arts, Arts Commission, and Office of Economic and Workforce Development are providing over $150,000 in funding for the Luggage Store Gallery and $180,000 to CounterPULSE for work involving the Turk Street space.

“CAST is seeking capital to undertake more acquisitions to serve as permanent affordable art space in the neighborhood,” according to the mayor’s office.

Like many residents of the area, nonprofits have expressed fear about being forced out due to increasing rents. Lee and Kim also announced the availability of real estate and financing technical assistance services to nonprofit arts organizations and small businesses in the Central Market, Sixth Street, and Tenderloin neighborhoods.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:02 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

LGBT humanitarian group raises aids Philippines survivors

Tyler Hicks NYT

Damage from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (Photo: Tyler Hicks/New York Times)

Rainbow World Fund, an LGBT-headed humanitarian group based in San Francisco, is raising money for survivors of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan, which recently struck the Philippines and killed thousands of people.

The cyclone, also known as Typhoon Yolanda, made landfall Thursday, November 7 and is estimated to have displaced more than 600,000 people.

Rainbow World Fund is encouraging LGBTs to make donations through and specify “Typhoon.” All of the money donated will go toward aid related to the typhoon.

Donors may also send checks to Rainbow World Fund, 4111 18th Street, Suite 5, San Francisco, California, 94114.

Jeff Cotter, Rainbow World Fund’s executive director, said his organization has raised about $4,000 in the first 24 hours of its effort.

“Rainbow World Fund’s work is about serving humanity, gay and straight alike,” Cotter said in an email. “When a disaster of this magnitude strikes every donation counts. Rainbow World Fund has distributed over $4 million in aid on the behalf of the LGBT community in the last 14 years. The aid that Rainbow World Fund provides saves and improves lives, builds relationships and changes minds. We show the world who we really are and what we care about.”

The money will go to the Philippines fund of the international aid group CARE and will help provide emergency food, safe water, plastic for shelter, blankets, and other aid.



— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 13, 2013 @ 5:28 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Critics of SF park closure hours continue opposition

Supervisor Scott Wiener (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Supervisor Scott Wiener (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Critics of gay Supervisor Scott Wiener’s legislation to close city parks from midnight to 5 a.m. are continuing their opposition, even after the full board approved his proposal 6-5 on its first reading this week.

Saying the group is “disgusted,” the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club said in an open letter to the board Friday, November 8, “We are in disbelief that at a time when San Francisco is facing a housing crisis, a homeless crisis, and an affordability crisis, our elected officials have chosen to spend their time putting forth and passing legislation that exacerbates all of these problems by further criminalizing the impoverished.”

In its letter, the Milk Club continued, “Even if we’re to believe for a second that Supervisor Wiener’s vandalism narrative smacked of even the smallest truth, this behavior is already illegal. Must we now direct our efforts toward scrutinizing our police department, given the broad discretion our City has now granted it to disparately enforce redundant and discriminatory legislation? We fear so.”

Wiener recently said he’s been “a strong proponent” for services for homeless people, including securing housing funding for homeless LGBT youth, making more homeless outreach workers available, and supporting a youth meal program.

He added removing homeless people from the parks “is not my motivation” and said, “It is currently illegal to sleep or camp in the parks. It has been for years.”

The actual purpose of his legislation is to “reduce the epidemic of vandalism and dumping in our parks,” said Wiener.

The Milk Club letter also states, “As members of the LGBTQ community, we know first hand the effects that discriminatory public policies have had on our lives. It’s a shame some of our elected officials don’t see that. Should our sexuality, gender identity or gender expression be rendered a crime? Should race and economic status be signifiers of criminal activity? Beacons for unwarranted police attacks? Absolutely not; not in San Francisco, not anywhere.”

The Milk Club thanked gay Supervisor David Campos and Supervisors John Avalos, London Breed, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar for voting against the plan Tuesday, November 5.

Wiener was joined by Supervisors David Chiu, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, Katy Tang, and Norman Yee in approving the legislation.

In its letter, the Milk Club told those supervisors, “You have drawn a bright line in the sand, and we are ashamed of you for continuing to stand with the moneyed elite and our City’s landed gentry without any regard for the working class and impoverished.” The letter says Wiener’s proposal “is one more anecdote in the ongoing tale of our two separate cities,” and “Lest you try to escape this broader narrative, we will remind you again and again, until you either change your ways or are forever emblazoned on the wrong side of this City’s history.”

The club called on all supervisors to work on policy solutions addressing the cost of living in the city, Ellis Act evictions,  affordable housing, and homelessness, among other issues.

“This City is no longer experiencing a crisis – it is enduring a catastrophe,” the letter says. “The end to this catastrophe must begin now.”

In a statement distributed by the Coalition on Homelessness, Brian Basinger, director of AIDS Housing Alliance-San Francisco, said, “Because of Scott Wiener’s legislation, LGBTQ San Franciscans who have lost their homes will experience increased physical violence, our public health system will be burdened by more emergency room visits due to the hate crimes committed against people kicked out of the parks who will be sleeping in the neighborhoods, merchants will have to work harder to deal with the impacts of people getting kicked out of the parks.” He also predicted that the city would spend more money on the Recreation and Park Department and police patrols “than what it costs to address the vandalism that this legislation was allegedly supposed to be targeting.”

The second vote on the legislation is set for Tuesday, November 19. The legislation goes into effect 30 days after Mayor Ed Lee signs it, which he’s expected to do. Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Lee, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 8, 2013 @ 6:02 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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