Political Notebook: Quan to face Occupy protest at SF Pride Parade
by Matthew S. Bajko
As Oakland Mayor Jean Quan marches in San Francisco's Pride Parade this weekend, she likely will encounter Occupy protesters, who have been an ever-present irritant to the East Bay leader since last October.
Quan's mishandling of the city's approach to an Occupy encampment that sprung up outside Oakland City Hall generated international headlines last fall and ill will from both supporters and detractors of the Occupy movement. Since then she and the Oakland Police Department have been ensnared in an ongoing judicial probe into the matter.
A federal judge overseeing the case this week threatened to fine both Quan and the city if the police department does not complete its own internal investigations into how officers dealt with Occupy protesters.
During the Pride Parade Sunday, June 24 Quan is expected to come face-to-face with Occupy members along the route up Market Street. A coalition of radical and progressive queer groups has come together to plan a number of demonstrations throughout San Francisco's Pride weekend.
Under the umbrella moniker of Bay Area OccuPride, the group is planning a series of direct actions targeted at corporate sponsors of the Pride Parade and a number of elected officials who have parade contingents.
In a phone interview this week, organizer Craig Rouskey would not confirm that Quan was among its targeted Pride participants. The gay San Francisco resident would only say, "We have a list of targets."
Rouskey, 34, added that a stoppage of the parade is also likely, but would last no longer than 10 minutes.
"We are not doing sit-ins or die-ins. We are planning cool, direct actions aimed at community building and fun," said Rouskey. "I hope everyone enjoys it and thinks it is really cool. We are doing this for our folks. We love our community."
During the interview, and also on the http://www.bayoccupride.com website he launched Saturday, June 16 to promote the Occupy Pride events, Rouskey stressed that the group's actions are not an attack on the Pride Committee or the parade itself. Nor do the organizers want to shut down the parade.
The aim is to highlight how companies use sponsorship of Pride to "pink wash" their corporate policies that line the pockets of their investors, said Rouskey.
"This is actually a queer community network of groups that have come together to work on this collectively to confront economic oppression evident through the Pride parade and pink washing," he said. "We want to do it in a way that is supportive of our community. We don't want to piss off people doing good things in our community."
According to Pride officials, Occupy will be an official contingent in the parade. The group has been given the #94 slot, ahead of Quan's contingent, which will be #113.
Asked if they took into account the fraught relationship between the Oakland mayor and Occupy, Pride Executive Director Brendan Behan demurred in fully explaining how their placements in the parade was determined. He did say that the line up is done in a way that Pride believes "is fitting."
"I am in no way trying to isolate anyone in the parade, Occupy or otherwise. Everyone who is a participant in the LGBT community and the advancement of our rights is welcome to march," said Behan. "When Occupy approached us to be a contingent, we asked them to follow our safety rules."
Throughout the parade's 42-year history there have been various protests, from blockages to direct actions against politicians. Over the last decade Gavin Newsom, currently the state's lieutenant governor, has been a frequent target of protesters.
In 2003 a group wearing pink bandannas targeted Newsom, then a city supervisor running to be San Francisco mayor, while he rode in the parade. In 2009 protesters upset over city budget cuts to AIDS services surrounded Newsom's parade vehicle and reportedly threw ketchup at his wife.
Asked if special precautions are being taken this year due to the planned Occupy demonstrations, Behan said the parade is following the same protocols it has used in the past and continues to work closely with police officials.
"This is a big parade and San Francisco Pride can not guarantee security or safety," said Behan. "We create an environment, identify any safety challenges, and try to address them the best we can."
He added that he hopes anyone engaged in street protests Sunday takes into account there are numerous parade participants who have mobility issues, from the handicapped to seniors and children.
"From everything I have read it sounds like they intend to be respectful of the fact the parade is about the LGBT movement," he said. "It sounds like what they are planning is family-friendly. If they are mindful of all that, then our approach is to do what we have always done."
Quan was traveling in Brazil this week, where she was attending Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro to speak about Oakland's climate and sustainable development policies. Her spokeswoman Sue Piper did not respond to requests for comment.
In an email sent June 16 by the mayor's office, Quan invited Oakland residents to walk with her in the parade this Sunday.
"We are looking forward to celebrating this year's theme, 'Global Equality,' with you," Quan, who has been fighting back efforts to recall her from office, is quoted as saying in the email.
Leslie Bonett, an Oakland resident who formed the Queers for Quan group during the 2010 mayor's race, also sent out the invitation on a Bay Area list serve for queer women.
"Mayor Jean Quan, her husband and supporters have had a contingent at Pride Parade for many years, showing her complete support for our equal rights and equality in the community," wrote Bonett.
The message produced several negative responses, with one person writing they were appalled by it.
"Quan was responsible for perpetrating violence during the Occupy Movement; her actions were anything but in support of equal rights and equality," the person wrote.
Another list serve member responded, "Quan contingent? I would be ashamed to march with her after how she has treated the occupy movement, and frankly you should be too."
Gay issues flare up at home
No matter what sort of reception Quan receives at Pride, she will be returning home to face several gay-related issues that are flaring up in Oakland.
Grumbling continues to grow over whom she will appoint to three seats on the city's powerful Port Commission this summer. In January, after gay Port Commissioner Michael Lighty resigned, Quan told the Bay Area Reporter she "would love" to find an LGBT person with maritime experience.
Lighty's seat went to Earl S. Hamlin , who was confirmed in May. His term expires on July 10, 2013.
Gay Planning Commissioner Michael Colbruno , whose term expired in May but continues to serve, has been angling for a Port Commission seat. So far, though, it is unclear if Quan intends to put his name forward. Colbruno declined to comment for this article.
It is expected that in July Quan will reappoint Margaret Gordon, whose port seat expired last year but continues to serve. Both Commission President Pamela Calloway and Second Vice President James W. Head will be up for re-appointment as their terms expire July 11.
Jason Overman, the communications director for lesbian Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who is running for re-election this fall to her at-large seat, declined to comment on the port appointments.
"We are not sure where the mayor is on that process," he told the B.A.R. this week.
Sean Sullivan, a gay man running for an Oakland City Council (District 3) seat this fall, said he had yet to hear whom the mayor intended to appoint. But he stressed that LGBT leaders are eager to see an out person be named to the body.
"We want to make sure that our leaders in the community are fully embraced in all of the city's bodies and the port commission is one of our top two most important commissions in the city," said Sullivan, who at one time had sought a port seat but stepped aside when Lighty expressed interest.
Another flash point facing the mayor as she and the council work to approve a balanced budget by the end of the month is funding for street festivals in Oakland such as its Pride festival. This year's celebration is set to take place Sunday, September 2.
Kaplan is pushing to see a one-year funding commitment for street festivals and community events be added into the city's budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Overman said the exact dollar amount had yet to be determined.
The proposal should be discussed next Thursday, June 28 during a special budget hearing the council has scheduled, Overman said. The budget must be approved by June 30.
"The point here is there are a number of community festivals and cultural events that take place each year in Oakland – Pride is one of several really great events – and we want to make sure they get funded," said Overman. "Community-based street fairs and festivals have been really important and powerful contributions in improving the quality of life in Oakland."
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reports on hurdles two national chains face in opening Castro locations.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.