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The left and right sides of the street were lined with excited spectators, the Dykes on Bikes’ motors revved in unison, cheers erupted and, momentously, the San Francisco Pride Parade got underway.
This past Sunday marked the in-person return of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and Celebration, and it was such a typical, welcomed scene that, for a moment, it was easy to forget that the pandemic had resulted in its cancellation the past two years.
Marking its 52nd year, the parade embarked on its usual course Sunday morning, starting at the Embarcadero, traveling up Market Street and ending at Eighth Street. With the theme (and hashtag) of “Love Will Keep Us Together,” the SF Pride Parade was a celebratory public reuniting of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as a reminder that such a community exists for support and as a means to collectively challenge social injustices.
With the recent anti-LGBTQ legislation efforts in several states, the even more recent Supreme Court decision regarding abortions and a general concern for the future of LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights, the 2022 SF Pride Parade was also a visible protest, harking back to its origins.
Says SF Pride Parade Community “Grand Marsha” Mellanique Robicheaux aka Black, “It was amazing being back, being Grand Marshal. I liked seeing all of the people of color out.”
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But of the Supreme Court’s decision, the veteran disc jockey notes, “They took some thunder — they took the lightning — out of us. … It just reminds us how important our freedoms are.”
Notably, Women’s March San Francisco joined SF Pride’s Board of Directors’ Resistance Contingent, composed of activists and organizations focused on equality and other LGBTQIA+ rights and issues, and led the parade.
Many in attendance on Sunday wore something Pride-themed: a trans pride, nonbinary pride, progress pride or other Pride-oriented flag as a cape, a shirt with a Pride-related slogan or a rainbow-hued article of clothing. A few opted to go sans clothes — nearly or entirely. And with the ongoing circumstance of COVID-19, the parade saw a mix of masked and maskless spectators and marchers.
Behind the crowds lined up at the barricades, numerous vendors were perched on Market Street’s sidewalks, as there seemed to be hot dog carts and offerings of Pride merchandise set up on every block of the parade route.
The SF Pride Parade’s Grand Marshals and local politicians — such as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), whose presence drew applause and cheers from the crowd — smiled and waved, sitting on the backseats of top-down convertibles. The slow-moving procession also featured music, such as from Bay Blue Notes, decorated trolleys and trucks, cheerleaders, drag queens and more balloons than one could possibly count.
Many of the organizations and agencies in the parade were San Francisco-based, such as Openhouse; the Institute on Aging; the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition; CHEER San Francisco; San Francisco Recreation and Parks; San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency aka Muni; and SF Department of Public Health, which made its way up Market with its one-eyed, two-horned, balloon-festooned “Recyclops” vehicle.
Local school groups such as UCSF, the San Francisco Unified School District and the Mission District’s Children’s Day School also participated in the parade.
Some parade contingents promoted events, such as AIDS/LifeCycle (San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center) happening June 4-10, 2023, and the Modern Family Show Expo 2022, scheduled for Oct. 29, 2022.
Others, such as Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, were present in response to the current political climate. Says Jayce Cooper, who led the group on Sunday, “I’m out here because I think it’s important for us to be at Pride, because a lot of us are queer. And with the announcement from Friday of SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade, and one of the Supreme Court justices claiming that they are going to look into banning contraceptives and potentially very much restricting or banning queer marriage, really just being here [matters], honestly.”
With a megaphone in hand, Cooper led the chant, “Gay, straight, black, white, all unite for abortion rights!” as members of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights and the Party for Socialism and Liberation began to move forward, entering the parade procession with a large green banner that read, “Abortion on Demand & Without Apology.”
The day wasn’t without incident, though. Organizers from San Francisco Pride tweeted at 7:34 p.m. Sunday the group shut down a musical performance on the Kaiser Permanente main stage early at Sunday’s Pride celebration, after someone near the stage sprayed Mace into the crowd.
“Although no one was harmed, it was not a pleasant experience,” the tweet said, confirming what was said at the time onstage. “We decided to cut the performance short in the interest of safety.”
Even though the main stage shut down early, it didn’t dampen the overall feeling of community.
In previous years, the SF Pride Parade has been criticized as being overly corporate, with major companies and their vast number of employees dominating the festive scene. But another way to perceive Apple, Alaska Airlines and other conglomerates is as partners in an effort to promote LGBTQIA+ rights, issues and culture.
This past weekend’s parade, above all else, demonstrated a sense of solidarity, evoking the notion of: This is San Francisco. These are the people, organizations and companies within the city, who are a part of the city, who are connected to it in some way. And we are ever-so-willing to come together to celebrate diversity, to champion equality and to protest injustices that affect our community members.
And proudly so.
Tony Hicks contributed to this report.