Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Gay man who lost Pride nudity case dies of apparent suicide

by Karen Ocamb

The shocking loss of his federal discrimination case against the San Diego Police Department may have been too much for Will X. Walters to handle. Since Gay Pride in 2011, he fought against his arrest on charges of public nudity, racking up about $1 million in legal costs over the years, only to have a federal jury rule in favor of the police on December 13. On Wednesday night (December 28), police found his body in his Hillcrest apartment, an apparent suicide, the San Diego Union Tribune reported (http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/sd-me-walters-death-20161229-story.html).

(Plaintiff Will X. Walters. Photo: Vito Di Stefano)

(Plaintiff Will X. Walters. Photo: Vito Di Stefano)

Chris Morris, Walters’ attorney, said the gay man was “shocked” by the verdict on the April appeal of his original case (http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca9/14-55495/14-55495-2016-04-05.html). He immediately left the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego and did not respond to Morris or friends’ attempts to contact him. Police told the Union Tribune that the exact time of his death is not known; the medical examiner’s office is investigating.

Just days before the verdict, on December 10 in the afternoon, Walters posted a “Thank you” to the community on The Pride LA Facebook page, after the most recent report on his case: https://thepridela.com/2016/12/trial-starts-san-diego-pride-nudity-case/.

“Will Walters Everyone thank you so much for your support, being in the trenches of this court case is very hard and I really appreciate everyone’s kind words,” the post reads. “I also want to thank Jeffrey Davidson for his comment as well, because my case is not only about the 14th amendment, it’s about defending the entire Constitution. The reason I continue this fight is so that we all can continue giving our opinions and we can enjoy the luxury of equal enforcement as well as freedom of speech. We need to remember that EVERY freedom in the Bill of Rights are rights that so many people around the world do not enjoy. I continue this fight not because of myself, but for everyone and I want to thank everyone for allowing me to represent them in this struggle. Regardless win or lose, it’s been a really long journey and myself, my friends and my legal team have fought as hard as we could, but it’s all to support my fellow Americans and again I want to thank everyone. You all are so amazing and God Bless America!”

The case was a real stunner, considering other Pride and LGBT events, including Halloween in West Hollywood. His complaint, filed in federal court in March 2012, (http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/03/13/44633.htm), alleged selective enforcement of the unused public nudity municipal code by officers of the San Diego Police Department.

“Will Walters is a Hispanic, gay man who owns the dubious distinction of being the only person in the history of the city of San Diego to be arrested and booked on a charge of public nudity,” the complaint states. “Mr. Walters was arrested for public nudity at the 2011 Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual Transgender Pride (‘Pride’) event while wearing an opaque gladiator type kilt over black underwear. Under any definition, he was not nude, as his buttocks and genitalia were fully covered. Nevertheless, he was ushered out of the event, humiliated, arrested, and incarcerated.”

Walters alleged that the city’s enforcement of its public nudity law “essentially allows thongs, G-strings, and other skimpy bathing suits to be worn by participants and attendees at straight special events, but not by attendees and participants at the one gay special event, Pride.”

To read the full story, visit https://thepridela.com/2016/12/will-walters-gay-man-lost-san-diego-pride-nudity-case-dies-apparent-suicide/.

— Cynthia Laird, December 30, 2016 @ 11:48 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Men stabbed near Dolores Park, Castro home burglarized

Dolores Park (Photo: Pete Thoshinsky)

Dolores Park (Photo: Pete Thoshinsky)

Two men were stabbed early Tuesday morning near San Francisco’s Dolores Park.

The occurred at 3 a.m. December 27 when the men, both 20,
who’d been “hanging out” in the area of 20th and Church streets were approached by two suspects who asked one of the men for his wallet. When he said, “No,” one suspect stabbed him and his companion in the face, according to Officer Robert Rueca, a police spokesman. Both suspects fled on foot.

The victims were taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Nothing was stolen.

Rueca described the suspects as Hispanic males in their mid-20s.

In another recent incident, three men were burglarized in the Castro district.

At 7 p.m. on Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, Rueca said, the men were cooking for the holiday in the upstairs kitchen of a house in the first block of Hartford Street.

One of the men, who’s 71, went downstairs to the home’s in-law unit and discovered that his credit card, watch, and wedding ring were missing. A watch and cash belonging to the second victim, 54; and clothing belonging to the third victim, 59, were also missing. The back door was “wide open,” Rueca said.

“No suspect was seen,” he said.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, December 28, 2016 @ 4:26 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Trial on hold for queer East Bay man accused of stalking, death threats

Demarus Allen-Batieste (Photo: Musicallyminded.org)

Demarus Allen-Batieste (Photo: Musicallyminded.org)

The trial of a queer East Bay man accused of stalking and threatening to kill a former mentor is on hold as doctors examine whether he’s mentally competent.

Demarus Allen-Batieste, 30, of Hercules, California, was “a gifted student” who in 2013 got a scholarship to study at the Zurich Symphony, where the female victim worked, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a summary.

The woman, whose name wasn’t released, mentored Allen-Batieste and other students, but after he developed a “serious mental illness,” he was expelled from the symphony and returned to the United States, Wagstaffe said.

Allen-Batieste then “started stalking” the woman “and threatened her with multiple vile emails,” according to the DA. “The emails included threats to kill the victim and numerous delusional threats” to her.

The case had been scheduled for jury trial Tuesday, December 27, but Mark Camperi, Allen-Batieste’s attorney, expressed doubt about his client’s competency to stand trial and filed a motion for his mental state to be examined.

Two doctors had already concluded in 2015 that Allen-Batieste was competent, Wagstaffe said, but Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum “reluctantly granted the renewed competency motion and suspended criminal proceedings.”

Forcum appointed Doctors Jeffrey Gould and George Wilkinson to examine Allen-Batieste, and the trial date was vacated. The next court date is February 7, 2017 for receipt of the doctors’ report and to schedule future competency proceedings.

Allen-Batieste, who’s been charged with making criminal threats, stalking, and being in contempt of court., is out of custody on $150,000 bail.

In response to emailed questions, Allen-Batieste said, “I haven’t done anything illegal that is resultant in a violation of the law,” and “I have never committed a violent physical or mental attack aimed at another person with intent to harm.”

He said that he’s “absolutely” competent to stand trial.

“With the help of great clinicians I am able to maintain my illness without medication,” he said.

In August 2015, Allen-Batieste entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity in the case. He rejected an unspecified offer from prosecutors in November 2016, Wagstaffe said.

He had attended Northwestern University on a music scholarship he got with help from the nonprofit Students Rising Above before he went to Zurich, according to Wagstaffe.

Deputy District Attorney Alpana D. Samant is prosecuting the case.

The Bay Area Reporter also spoke with Allen-Batieste recently about claims he filed in October against staff at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, his former employer. His allegations include “emotional distress, racial discrimination, failure to act to prevent sexual harassment,” and “wrongful termination.”

SFAF staff have declined to comment on the claims, which are pending in San Francisco Superior Court.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 3:36 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Cafe Flore sold to LGBT buyers

by Sari Staver

The Castro’s iconic Cafe Flore has been purchased by LGBT buyers who intend to keep the popular outdoor eatery much the same as it has been in recent years.

(Cafe Flore has been sold.)

(Cafe Flore has been sold.)

According to sources close to the transaction, the sale will close escrow January 2.

Complete details of the sale, including an interview with the new owners, will be in next week’s Bay Area Reporter.

The 43-year-old restaurant has been for sale since July, when the current owners listed the business and its liquor license for sale for $495,000. (http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=71721)

The funky dining and drinking spot, which was awarded best place for lunch and best outdoor patio in the Bay Area Reporter’s Besties readers’ poll in 2016, has hosted many charity fundraisers and community events, including last year’s 25th anniversary party for ACT UP.

The property is currently owned by a partnership that includes Realtor Steven “Stu” Gerry, who had told the B.A.R. that there was a lot of interest by potential buyers. Three groups of potential buyers scheduled appointments to see the restaurant the day after it went on the market. The property, owned by J.D. Petras, was not for sale.

According to the San Francisco Heritage website, the building that Cafe Flore occupies dates back to the early 20th century when the Castro was then known as “Little Scandinavia” due to the large numbers of Nordic immigrants who called the district home. The plot of land that would eventually become Cafe Flore originally contained a Swedish bathhouse.

The designer of the building, Alfred Finnila, later contributed to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, where he oversaw the iron and roadway installation.

— Cynthia Laird, @ 3:12 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Out CA Assembly members given leadership posts

CA Assemblyman Todd Gloria

CA Assemblyman Todd Gloria

Three of the California Assembly’s out lawmakers received top leadership posts today, while the fourth, lesbian Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), landed on an important committee during her freshman year.

The group’s other freshman member, gay Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), will be a part of the Assembly Democratic Leadership for the 2017-2018 legislative session. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) announced this morning (Tuesday, December 27) that he had named Gloria one of two assistant majority whips.

Gloria had faced token opposition in his race to succeed lesbian lawmaker Toni Atkins, who was termed out of her Assembly seat and elected to the state Senate this year. The former San Diego city councilman represents the 78th Assembly District, comprised of the city of San Diego as well as the cities of Coronado, Del Mar, Imperial Beach, and Solana Beach.

Returning lawmakers lesbian Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) were both given chairmanships of Assembly committees. Eggman will chair the accountability and administrative review committee while Low will chair the elections and redistricting committee.

As for Cervantes, who ousted Assemblyman Eric Linder (R-Corona) from his 60th Assembly District seat centered in northwestern Riverside County, she was given a seat on the rules committee.

Today’s committee assignments mean all but two of the seven members of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus will hold leadership posts during the next legislative session. As noted in a blog post last week, Atkins was snubbed by the state Senate’s leader and was not named a committee chair.

Incumbents lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) and gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) both received committee chair positions as did freshman gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

— Matthew S. Bajko, December 27, 2016 @ 11:40 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Trio of out CA senators given top posts while Atkins snubbed

State Senator Toni Atkins

State Senator Toni Atkins

A trio of out state senators received top committee assignments this week for the new legislative session, while a fourth who challenged her party’s legislative leadership last year was snubbed.

Lesbian state Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) had risen to the top leadership post in the state Assembly, becoming the first out woman to serve as Assembly speaker. Faced with being termed out of her Assembly seat, she shocked the Statehouse last year when she announced she would run against state Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) for his Senate District 39 seat.

Block had the support of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, and Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) made no secret of his displeasure with Atkin’s decision, which she said was due to Block agreeing to step down after one term so she could run. (He admitted the two talked of such an arrangement at one point but insisted he had not agreed to it, though he eventually did drop his re-election bid.)

Apparently de León is not ready to let Atkins off the hook. As Politico noted in its California Playbook email this morning, he snubbed her from any committee chair or floor leadership position yesterday when he released the assignments for senators.

She was assigned to serve on the Senate committees for health, labor and industrial relations, natural resources and water, rules, and transportation and housing.

Lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) and gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who won re-election in November, both received committee chair positions.

Lara received the coveted chair slot of the appropriations committee, where legislation that has any fiscal impact is heard. He will also serve on the committees overseeing environmental quality, and governance and finance.

Galgiani was named chair of the Senate agriculture committee, a key post for the Central Valley lawmaker. She will also serve on the committees overseeing business, professions and economic development, and education.

Galgiani and Lara were also both named to the banking and financial institutions committee and the governmental organization committee.

Gay freshman state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), seen as a rising star in the state Democratic Party, was named chair of the Senate human services committee as well as a member of the appropriations committee. He will also serve on the committees overseeing energy, utilities and communication, public safety, and transportation and housing.

“I’m excited that these committees will put me at the heart of so much of the critical work we need to get done for California,” stated Wiener. “As long as I’ve been an elected official, I’ve been passionate about developing regional and statewide solutions to our aging and insufficient public transportation systems so that we can ease the gridlock on our streets and highways and create a more sustainable transportation future.”

Wiener added, “We also need to reverse course on our failure to produce the housing we need for our residents so that people aren’t being evicted or forced to leave our state because they can’t find housing near where they work.”

The designated committee chairs and membership will be formally adopted by the Senate Rules Committee when it convenes on January 11.

— Matthew S. Bajko, December 22, 2016 @ 2:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Homeless Youth Alliance raises funds to help pets

Photo: Homeless Youth Alliance

Photo: Homeless Youth Alliance

Homeless Youth Alliance, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps homeless youth get access to health care, housing, and other services, is raising money to help people’s pets.

“For HYA’s staff, helping kids’ pets is the first step in encouraging them to accept help for themselves,” the group said in announcing its campaign, which is being sponsored by the anti-poverty organization Hand Up. “… More often than not, a life-changing course of positive change begins very simply, with a young person asking one of our counselors, ‘Do you guys have food for my dog?'”

HYA is hoping to bring in $30,000 by January 5. As of Wednesday afternoon, almost $19,000 had been raised.

Money raised during the campaign will go to pay for pet food and help provide case management sessions with clients. In those sessions, clients get a hot meal and help with getting housing, medical care, employment, legal IDs, and other assistance.

Each year, the nonprofit sees about 1,000 dogs accompanying its clients, including many who are LGBTQ.

“Most are ‘rescues,’ large breeds that are disproportionately euthanized at shelters but are loyal and constant companions to our participants, who can relate to how it feels to be unwanted and discounted,” HYA said. “These pets are often the only link to love, trust, and family that they experience day-to-day.”

The nonprofit pointed to a client named Susan who finds it “easier to ask for help for her dogs than it is to ask for anything for herself.”

“When you give to our campaign, you’re helping to keep alive a vitally important resource, one that not only keeps pups happy and healthy, but that paves the way for our counselors to build long-term, trusting relationships with youth that ultimately lead to stability, recovery, and permanent transition off the streets,” HYA said.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, December 21, 2016 @ 4:06 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Prowler arrested at Castro house

Photo: Rick Gerharter

Photo: Rick Gerharter

A man was arrested at a house in San Francisco’s Castro district early Tuesday morning after allegedly being caught prowling.

At 2:40 a.m., a 63-year-old man in the 4000 block of 17th Street “heard noise in his living room” and searched the house, according to Officer Robert Rueca, a police spokesman. The homeowner caught the suspect in the house and detained him until police got there

Police haven’t released the suspect’s name, but Rueca said he’s a 30-year-old black male.

Nothing was taken in the incident.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:53 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Gay SF gardener returning to TV show ‘Survivor’ in 2017

SF resident Tai Trang (Courtesy CBS)

SF resident Tai Trang (Courtesy CBS  Entertainment)

At the end of Wednesday night’s finale of the latest season of Survivor it was confirmed that Tai Trang, a gay San Francisco resident, would be returning for the long-running TV show’s 34th season next spring.

Trang, 52, a gardener for the Port of San Francisco, was a fan favorite of the 32nd installment of the show, Survivor: Kaoh Rong, which was played on the islands of Cambodia and aired in the spring. He ended up in third place but was surprised with a $50,000 reward from the singer Sia during the finale.

She also announced she would donate $50,000 to an animal rights charity of Trang’s choosing. A vegetarian, Trang had protected a chicken he named Mark from the boiling pot during the show and brought it to the last tribal council of the season.

The next season of the show has been dubbed Survivor Game Changers — the Mamanuca Islands. All of the 20-person cast are returning players who helped advance the game play on the show, which pits groups of tribes against each other at first and then becomes every person for themselves until only one person is left and wins $1 million.

After a preview of the new season was shown Wednesday night at the end of the finale show for the 33rd season – which can be viewed here – Trang joined the host Jeff Probst and several of the other returning players on stage at CBS Studios in Los Angeles.

Filming of the 34th season took place over the summer on the islands of Fiji, where the fall season also was located. In May fan sites for the show first reported that Trang would start off on the 10-person Nuku Tribe along with another cast member from his first season, Debbie Wanner.

On the competing 10-member Mana Tribe will be two other castaways from Kaoh Rong: Caleb Reynolds, whose wedding earlier this year Trang attended, and Aubry Bracco, who came in second place, according to fan sites of the show. In an August 1 posting to his Facebook fan page, Trang hinted about his being away to tape the show this summer.

“Hey Everyone. sorry I was so busy the last couple months and not able to do any social media stuff but now i am back,” he wrote.

As he explained in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter in April, Trang’s being on Survivor was somewhat of a fluke. In the summer of 2014, he and his partner, Mark Philpot, 56, who works as a nurse in the Tenderloin for the city’s public health department, had applied to be contestants on another CBS competition show, The Amazing Race.

Although the couple wasn’t picked, Trang caught the eye of a casting director, who recommended he think about applying for Survivor. He sent in an audition tape, was picked, and left in March of last year to tape the show.

Because of his being selected to return for another season on Survivor, Trang missed this June’s AIDS/LifeCycle that benefits the Los Angeles LGBT Community Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which he had told the B.A.R. he planned to ride in again. Trang has been a participant of the fundraiser the past 13 years and “has raised an incredible $71,292,” according to event officials.

The next Survivor season will debut at 8 p.m. March 8.

— Matthew S. Bajko, December 16, 2016 @ 4:03 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Oversight bodies approve SF parks management plan

The above graphic shows how off-leash dog areas will be reduced at three sites under a park management plan that won support this week. Courtesy Recreation and Park Department.

The above graphic shows how off-leash dog areas will be reduced at three sites under a park management plan that won support this week. Courtesy Recreation and Park Department.

Two San Francisco oversight bodies this evening approved a plan that will bring sweeping changes to how the city manages its natural areas in city parks over the next two decades.

While supported by park advocates, environmentalists and city gardeners, the plan drew strong objections from dog owners, golfers, and others who want to protect the city’s existing forest canopy, especially on Mt. Davidson.

Known as the Recreation and Park Department’s Natural Resources Management Plan, it covers not only Mt. Davidson’s forest but also the grasslands of Bernal Hill, Twin Peaks’ coastal scrub lands, and Islais Creek in Glen Canyon. Also covered are the wetlands of India Basin and Lake Merced, and portions of McLaren Park, Buena Vista Park, and the Oak Woodlands of Golden Gate Park.

“San Francisco is quite rare in terms of other American cities … we have uniquely robust access to wild spaces,” said Dawn Kamalanathan, the rec and park department’s director of planning and capital management division. “These natural areas are, quite literally, steps away from many people’s front door instead of miles away.”

Recreation and park staff stressed that the plan is only a guiding principal and that more community input would be sought for how to implement it at individual park sites.

“Most conversations have been around the edges of the plan. These negotiable edges in each of the parks is over how much square footage should be shifted from one use to another or how many trees should be taken down one year and the next,” said Kamalanathan. “Those conversations will continue to go on, likely forever, and we welcome them.”

There are 32 local park sites designated as natural areas, which encompass 1,100 acres and 30 miles of trails. Many of the sites are popular with dog owners as they provide recreational access within walking distance from their homes, as noted in a story in today’s (Thursday, December 15) Bay Area Reporter.

The purpose of the management plan, under discussion for close to 25 years, is to protect the city’s native habitats and species, some found nowhere else in the world, such as the San Francisco garter snake and mission blue butterfly.

“Without these special natural places, the most sensitive species cannot survive,” said Amber Hasselbring, executive director of Nature in the City, who urged the oversight panels to adopt the plan.

With that goal in mind, the plan calls for the removal of a total of 19.3 acres of off-leash dog areas from the city’s parks. The other 75.9 acres where dogs can play off-leash would remain, and parks officials stressed that dogs on-leash are allowed at all city parks.

Dog advocates argue that adopting the city’s plan at the same time as the National Park Service intends to remove nearly all the off-leash dog areas in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area will negatively impact the city’s parks, as dogs and their owners will crowd into the remaining dog play areas in their local parks.

“As the population of San Francisco grows, we will need more off-leash areas not less,” said Sally Stephens, the long-time chair of the San Francisco Dog Owners Group, who added that the EIR did “not adequately” address how the move by the GGNRA would impact the local parks.

And she warned that due to how the plan is written, “San Francisco might close 80 percent of the dog play areas over time.”

The city’s plan also lays out how rec and park intends to cull 18,000 non-native eucalyptus trees and other species parks officials have identified as either dying or in poor conditions. It calls for replacing one-for-one any trees that are removed, though they likely would not be planted in the same spot.

That drew vocal protests at today’s hearing, as did complaints from parents and others about how the plan would allow the use of pesticides in the city’s parks.

Also included in the plan is how the parks department intends to upgrade habitat for two endangered species, the red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake, at Sharp Park, which is located in San Mateo County. The 12th hole would be removed from the historic 18-hole golf course at the park as part of the proposed changes.

Not only have golfers raised objections to the plan over the golf course changes, the Sierra Club also opposed the plan being certified and adopted if it included the golf course. The environmental group, alongside others, has long been at odds with city officials over how to manage Sharp Park and delivered letters from 325 of its members to the hearing today asking that the golf course not be included in the natural areas management plan. They argued it should be addressed on its own since it is not being managed as a natural area.

After hearing more than five hours of testimony, the city’s planning commission voted 6-1 to approve the plan’s environmental impact report. Following that vote, the recreation and park commission voted 5-0 to adopt the plan, which will now go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval sometime in early 2017.

“I am proud of this EIR document. It is comprehensive and meets the criteria,” said planning commissioner Myrna Melgar.

Planning Commissioner Kathrin Moore agreed but was the one vote against the EIR.

Mark Buell, president of the rec and park commission, noted that the plan is meant “to give guidance” as the agency moves forward with the various projects, which are yet to be funded.

“This doesn’t mean that tomorrow chainsaws will be out clear-cutting Mt. Davidson or any other part of the city,” he said.

— Matthew S. Bajko, December 15, 2016 @ 8:24 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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