For years, Pink Saturday was one of the most popular places to be during San Francisco's annual Pride Week. But now, after being marred by violence in recent years, the once-raucous street party is hardly recognizable.
The transformation has been a long time coming: Pink Saturday, which at one time turned the Castro neighborhood into a spot flooded with hundreds of thousands of people, grappled with cancellation two years ago following a string of violent altercations, including a fatal shooting.
As a result, its longtime organizers, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, ended its sponsorship. The San Francisco LGBT Community Center swooped in and saved it last year, but staffers couldn’t said they weren’t equipped to do it again.
So, it was a surprise to many when it was announced that the sisters would return as host. It was also a surprise when it was announced that the event would be held in an enclosed parking lot with a 21-and-up age requirement.
[BAY] Marred by Violence, Pink Saturday is Hardly the Same
“The event is going to be much more straightforward to manage, because it’s a closed off space with a gate…” explained city supervisor Scott Weiner at this year’s event.
Organizers said they expected about 3,000 people to turn out to the party – a far cry from the 250,000 that showed up in the early aughts.
The venue isn’t the only drastic change that ruffled some attendees the wrong way: Police presence was amplified, and private security was hired to keep an eye on the shindig. Anyone who wanted to enter had to consent to a metal detector scan, a physical pat down and a search of their belongings.
Several activist organizations said the heightened police presence alienated people of color, many of whom have had a contentious relationship with the city's police department, and have opted to sit out the celebration.
"As an African-American, I'm disappointed that (Black Lives Matter) won't be here, but that's not going to stop me from representing my community," said Kippy Marks, a resident of San Francisco.
Weiner acknowledged that police and security presence at pride festivities was a complicated issue.
"Pride is in a tough spot," Weiner said. "We want to strike a balance between providing freedom but also protection. We've had problems recently and to prvent something worse from happening, we need to have that security.
Some attendees were pleased to see the increased police presence.
"When I walked up, I saw two cops outside the Eagle and I said, “Thank you.” They’re hear to protect the people," Jeanette Coreris of San Francisco said.
The once-free event also charged an admittance fee of $10 this year, in hopes that money raised can benefit the victims of the Orlando massacre and for gun control advocacy.