Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

BREAKING: Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker dies

Gilbert Baker

Gilbert Baker

Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow flag, died Friday (March 31) in New York at the age of 65.

In a Facebook post, Cleve Jones, a longtime gay activist and friend of Baker’s, said, “I am heartbroken. My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship. I can’t stop crying. I love you forever Gilbert Baker.”

Jones is calling for people to meet at 7 p.m. Friday at the large rainbow flag in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for New York’s Chief Medical Examiner, said in response to an email from the Bay Area Reporter Friday, “I can confirm that the death was reported to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner today and our office will be investigating to determine the cause and manner of death.”

Audrey Joseph, a local nightlife promoter who produced the main stage at San Francisco’s LGBT Pride celebration for years, said Baker “was many things to many people but to our community he was an amazing activist and the creator of the Gay Pride flag. Please keep Gilbert in your thoughts.”

Local queer historian Gerard Koskovich said, “We have lost one of the greats of our community. Let us now lower rainbow flags worldwide to half mast in Gilbert’s memory.”

In a call with the B.A.R. Friday, Dan Nicoletta, who’s spent decades photographing LGBT history, recalled first meeting Baker, who became known as the gay Betsy Ross, around 1977.

“He was a classic gay hippie boy,” Nicoletta said. “He was beautiful. He was sweet. He was very creative, like kind of a little tornado, and I just enjoyed being in proximity to him. We co-habitated that creative space together, and it was pure joy, really.”

Gay San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who represents the Castro and other neighborhoods in District 8, said in a statement,  “The 8-color flag which later became the 6-color flag is now the global symbol for the LGBT community. Gilbert was a master of political theatre and the core of his personal being was artistry.  The rainbow flag will always be his greatest work of art.”

Sheehy added,”Gilbert was an inspiration to me and my hero. My heart aches and I will miss him dearly.”

In his statement, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said, “Gilbert Baker was an LGBT icon and played a key role defining the modern LGBT community. For generations of LGBT people, myself included, the rainbow flag was part of our coming out and our discovery of community. Rest in power, Gilbert. You will be missed.”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement that he was “saddened” to hear of Baker’s death.

“At a time of great uncertainty in the LGBT community, Gilbert’s act of sewing together multicolored materials unified and empowered individuals across the country, helping to bring them together under a common cause,” Lee said.

“The rainbow flag is more than just a symbol,” he continued. “It is the embodiment of the LGBT community, and it has become a source of solace, comfort and pride for all those who look upon it. Standing side-by-side with [gay rights icon and former San Francisco Supervisor] Harvey Milk, Gilbert first raised the flag here in San Francisco, but those rainbow colors are now seen around the world.”

Lee’s office said that the rainbow flag would fly at half-staff from the mayor’s balcony.

However, there are no plans to lower the large flag that has flown for decades over the Castro at Harvey Milk Plaza.

Dan Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchants business group, which oversees the flag, told the B.A.R., “Per Gilbert’s request, the flag will remain as he intended, flying high with pride.”

Jones also made that point on Facebook.

“It was Gilbert’s wish that the Rainbow Flag NOT be lowered, even in his honor,” he said in response to a post by gay activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca calling on the flag to be lowered to half mast. “This wish was expressed clearly and repeatedly to his closest friends.”

The B.A.R. will have more in the Thursday, April 6 edition of the paper.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 31, 2017 @ 1:44 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Witness in SOMA hate crime trial threatened, DA says

Pearly Martin (Photo: San Francisco Police Department)

Pearly Martin (Photo: San Francisco Police Department)

A witness who was to testify Thursday (March 30) in the trial against a San Francisco woman accused of anti-gay hate crimes didn’t appear after he was reportedly threatened.

Pearly Martin, 30, is accused of threatening several men with a pocketknife outside Club OMG, 43 Sixth Street, and yelling statements including “faggots” and “I’m gonna kill you, bitch” in an April 2016 incident. Her charges include criminal threats and false imprisonment, and most of the counts carry hate crime enhancements.

Attorneys gave opening statements this week, and Assistant District Attorney Ben Mains started presenting witnesses.

Testimony was set to continue Thursday morning, but Superior Court Judge Sharon Reardon sent jurors home after telling them, “Unfortunately, a serious issue has come up that needs to be dealt with” before the trial can go on.

After the jurors left, Mains said that he’d received a voicemail from the witness, who said, “He has been threatened and does not feel safe coming to testify,” and “The individual who threatened him knew he was going to testify today.”

Mains said he would need to investigate in order “to determine who made that threat.” He didn’t say who the witness was but he said the man works with another witness who’d been set to testify in the afternoon.

The trial is set to resume Monday morning. Reardon told jurors before they left that the case, which is expected to take about another week, is “still on schedule.”

Martin, who appeared Thursday with her attorney, John Kaman, has been in custody since she was arrested shortly after the incident. Her bail is set at $300,000.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 30, 2017 @ 3:28 pm PST
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2 robbed in Duboce Triangle incidents

Two men were robbed recently in separate incidents in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle area.

The latest robbery occurred at about 10:20 p.m. Sunday, March 26, when two men approached the 27-year-old victim at Steiner and Duboce streets and brandished a handgun, police spokesman Officer Robert Rueca said. They demanded the victim give them his property, and he complied.

The two suspects joined a third suspect and they fled on foot in an unknown direction with the victim’s cash, Rueca said.

The victim wasn’t injured.

The first two suspects were described as black 20-year-old males. No description was available for the third suspect.

The other robbery started at about 4 a.m. Friday, March 24 at Church and Market streets, where the victim was standing at a bus stop, Rueca said.

Two suspects approached the 73-year-old victim, and as one asked the victim for a cigarette, the other “pulled him to the ground and took his backpack,” according to Rueca.

The victim’s backpack, cash, and cellphone were taken. He was transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The suspects, who were described as white males aged 20 to 30, “fled in an unknown direction,” Rueca said.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 29, 2017 @ 1:59 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man hit with umbrella in Castro

A 54-year-old man was taken to a hospital after being struck with an umbrella early Monday morning (March 27) in San Francisco’s Castro district, according to police.

The man walking in the 400 block of Castro Street at about 2 a.m. when he was attacked, police spokesman Officer Robert Rueca said. He “could not recall who hit him,” Rueca said, but a witness described the suspect as a black male in his 40s.

The victim’s injuries were described as non-life threatening.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:10 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Robberies, assaults reported in Castro, Dolores Park

Two people were robbed and two others were assaulted in incidents that occurred in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood and Dolores Park in recent days.

The assaults included a man being beaten at 18th and Castro streets and another man getting stabbed with a fork.

Monday, March 20

The robbery in the Castro started at about 8:25 p.m. as the victim, 30, sat at a table at a coffee shop in the 4000 block of 18th Street, according to Officer Robert Rueca, a police spokesman. A man in his early 20s approached the victim and asked him something, then took the victim’s laptop and fled.

The victim chased the suspect and recovered his laptop. The thief got into a vehicle with two other suspects, and they fled south on Hartford.

The victim suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The first suspect was described as a black male. The second suspect was described as a Hispanic male aged 20 to 24. No description was available for the third suspect.

Sunday, March 19

At about midnight, a group of people “physically assaulted” a 20-year-old man at 18th and Castro, Rueca said. The victim, who had non-life threatening injuries, was taken to a hospital

Rueca didn’t offer details of how the victim was beaten, and no descriptions were available for the suspects.

Saturday, March 18

The suspect, a 43-year-old man, walked up to the victim, a 53-year-old man, and stabbed him with a fork at about 9 a.m. as the victim crossed the road in the 400 block of Sanchez Street. The victim was taken to a hospital and was in “stable” condition, Rueca said.

The suspect, described as a white male, was arrested, but Rueca declined to share his name or other information, citing pending identification matters.

Friday, March 17

Rueca said that at about 10:45 p.m., a man put down his camera “to look at a statue.” When he turned around, he saw a woman pick up the camera and pocket it. When the victim tried to get back his camera, she punched him.

The woman, 20, handed the camera to a man, 22, and they both fled east on 18th. The suspects were described as being Hispanic. No other details about them were available.

No injuries were listed for the victim, who’s 39.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 23, 2017 @ 7:27 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay man on life support after incident at Hecho bar in Castro

Abel from family

Abel Florentino (a.k.a. Abel Marquez)

The father of a gay San Francisco man who’d been acting violently at the Hecho Cantina in the Castro district Saturday night (March 11) says his son is on life support after first responders gave him a drug they shouldn’t have.

David Monroe shared with the Bay Area Reporter fire department records that say Abel Florentino, 36, was “violently causing a scene while breaking windows” at about 9 p.m. at Hecho, 2200 Market Street. When responders arrived, several people were restraining Florentino.

The records say that as Florentino continued to fight, “this crew administered 5 mg Versed IM” – a sedative also known as midazolam that’s often used before medical procedures – in an apparent effort to sedate him. As responders secured restraints on Florentino, he “became limp.”

Medical records say that about two minutes after Florentino was given versed, he was “noted to be apneic and pulseless.”

Monroe says that medical staff have told him that Florentino had methamphetamine in his system, and the records say alcohol could be smelled on his breath. The documents say that when Florentino arrived at the emergency room, he presented “for evaluation of cardiac arrest.”

Fire department records say that Florentino suffered cardiac arrest after emergency medical service providers arrived. The cause is listed as “drug overdose.”

A Gofundme page established for Florentino (who also uses his husband’s last name, Marquez) says he suffered a heart attack.

Monroe believes that the sedative is what led to Florentino being on life support, where he remains at San Francisco Zuckerberg General Hospital. (Monroe is Florentino’s stepfather but says Florentino referred to him as “Dad.”)

Police sergeants that Monroe says he’s spoken with didn’t immediately respond to the Bay Area Reporter’s requests for comment.

A fire department spokesman hasn’t responded to the B.A.R.’s messages, and a hospital spokeswoman declined to comment.

Hecho’s owners haven’t responded to interview requests.

Florentino’s family is asking any witnesses to the Hecho incident to send an email to

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on this story in the Thursday, March 23 edition.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 17, 2017 @ 4:38 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Out & Equal CEO stepping down

Selisse Berry (Photo: Out & Equal)

Selisse Berry (Photo: Out & Equal)

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates founder and longtime CEO Selisse Berry announced this week that she’s stepping down after more than 20 years with the San Francisco-based nonprofit.

Since Berry founded the organization in 1996, it has worked to ensure LGBT rights for workers at corporations around the world.

Berry will leave her post in August, but she’ll remain with Out & Equal in an advisory role, the organization said in a news release Wednesday (March 15).

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to create and lead this incredibly important organization,” Berry stated. “In partnership with hundreds of the world’s largest multi-national corporations we have achieved more for LGBT workplace equality than I ever dreamed possible 20 years ago.”

Out & Equal board co-chair and GE General Manager said, “When Selisse began her work in 1996, only four percent of Fortune 500 companies included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. Today, 92 percent of them have inclusive policies. Selisse’s work transformed the landscape and showed what is possible when determination, collaboration, and vision come together.”

The nonprofit has launched an executive search for Berry’s replacement.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:39 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF politico’s child porn sentencing delayed

Juan Enrique Pearce (Photo: SFPD)

Juan Enrique Pearce (Photo: SFPD)

The sentencing on child pornography charges for a well-known political consultant who once campaigned for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and others has been delayed after a judge said he couldn’t be sentenced to home detention.

Juan Enrique Pearce, of San Francisco, who was jailed briefly after his May 2015 arrest, pleaded guilty in December 2016 to possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, and buying or receiving stolen property, according to court records. In exchange, prosecutors had dismissed charges of possession of over 600 images depicting children “engaged in or simulating sexual conduct” – including at least 10 images showing children younger than 12, possession of sadomasochistic child or youth pornography. (The stolen property was a parking meter.)

Pearce had been set to do six months of home detention, but San Francisco Superior Court Judge Rene Nazarro told him Friday (March 10) that since Sheriff Vicki Hennessy had disapproved that plan, it wouldn’t be an option.

Navarro said that Pearce either needs to serve his six months in county jail, or withdraw his guilty plea and start criminal proceedings over again.

“Back to the drawing board,” Douglas Horngrad, Pearce’s attorney, said in court.

Pearce’s next court date is April 7, when he and his attorneys are expected to say what he wants to do.

Pearce declined to speak with reporters Friday morning as he entered the courtroom, and his attorneys rushed him away after the hearing.

A gay longtime city staffer previously told the Bay Area Reporter that Pearce had told him he’s gay.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 10, 2017 @ 5:29 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

LGBT mural in Castro tagged

Grafitti on a mural at  Market and 16th streets. (Photo: Peter Hartikka.)

Grafitti on a mural at Market and 16th streets. (Photo: Peter Hartikka.)

An LGBT-themed mural in San Francisco’s Castro district has been tagged with graffiti that obscures the lower portion of the painting.

The mural, which is on the side of the Castro Republic eatery, at Market and 16th streets, shows a man carrying a large rainbow flag, followed by two women on a motorcycle with a leather flag. It appears the tagging occurred early Wednesday morning (March 8).

The graffiti reads “” Messages can be posted directly to the site. The Bay Area Reporter twice posted messages, accompanied by a photo of the tagged mural, requesting that someone call the paper. No one has responded, and both messages were removed. The site’s administrator’s didn’t immediately respond to an email from the B.A.R.

David Rodriguez, 29, a Castro Republic server, hadn’t yet seen the graffiti when the B.A.R. visited the restaurant Thursday. When he went outside to look, he said, “Oh my god … that is so mean.”

Juan Reynoso, 36, who sells flowers at a kiosk next to the mural, said he first noticed the vandalism Wednesday morning.

In an email exchange with the B.A.R., Sergeant Michael Andraychak, a police spokesman, said, “While the department is aware of the ‘tag,’ to our knowledge, no one has filed a police report regarding the mural.”

Police “are familiar with the tag,” Andraychak said, and someone standing by the mural Thursday said that he’d seen it before, too, although he couldn’t recall where.

In January, Hoodline reported that the tag had been seen in numerous places, including in the Haight district. In an email exchange with the news site, administrative manager Olivia Lang said, “The Founders of Olevau do not support, promote or condone Destruction & Violence within the community,” she wrote. “Period. How the users of Olevau decide to express their love for the website is beyond our control. Olevau = Creation.”

The Castro Republic’s owner couldn’t be reached for comment. Rodriguez said the Castro Republic doesn’t have surveillance cameras outside.

Metal police barricades sat in front of the mural Thursday. Someone sent the B.A.R. a photo of the mural that was taken Wednesday night. The barricades were not in the photo.

Andraychak said police would like the artist or the property owner to contact them and file a report.

The police department’s graffiti abatement officer “follows up cases involving  significant damage,” Andraychak said.  He said anyone with tips or other information may email

Anyone with information regarding the vandalism at Castro Republic or the suspect is asked to contact the SFPD Tip Line at (415) 575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. Tips may be made anonymously.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 9, 2017 @ 6:04 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Two pepper sprayed in Castro robbery

The 2200 block of Market Street. (Image: Google)

The 2200 block of Market Street. (Image: Google)

Two people were pepper sprayed and one of them was robbed early Sunday in San Francisco’s Castro district, according to police.

The incident occurred at 2:45 a.m. March 5 in the 2200 block of Market Street when the three suspects, who were leaving a business, asked the victims a question, police said. As one of the victims replied, one of the suspects pepper sprayed the pair and took a backpack from one of them.

The victim chased the three suspects and recovered his bag. The suspects fled in a vehicle.

The victim who was robbed, a 45-year-old man, sustained a non-life threatening injury, according to police.

The suspects were described only as two white males and a Hispanic male.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 8, 2017 @ 4:37 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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