Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SF Chronicle: Activists Want More Control
Over Castro's Rainbow Flag

(Your humble blogger, under the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza. Credit: Paul Chin, The Chronicle.)

How and why did a private merchants' group come to be in control of not just a piece of public property, but real estate in the heart of the gay community and named for a man who fought against machine politics?

Maybe now that Will Kane has written a front-page story appearing in Tuesday's SF Chronicle, we'll not only get answers but perhaps there will also be an evolution in allowing for diverse factions of the community to have access to the rainbow flag and pole at Harvey Milk Plaza. It would have been great if the editors allotted more space to Kane's piece, looking at the role of the Department of Public Works in this debate, still, I'm pleased that the issues are getting mainstream media attention.

As you'll read, I have not submitted a request to the illegitimate holders of the key for the flag pole to hoist the American flag with the rainbow flag on May 22, Harvey Milk Day. Just as I would not go through any private group to access care and services at a city-run HIV clinic, there is no reason why I must ask a private club to access a city-owned piece of equipment.

Further, the matter of how the Castro's diverse stakeholders will mark and honor Harvey Milk on his birthday, which is state-recognized day of significance, has not been publicly debated. Neither Supervisor Scott Wiener or his cronies in the merchants' club have held a single public meeting about how best the neighborhood will celebrate and use May 22.

Oh, the Bay Area Reporter recently wrote about a private meeting the supervisor and the club president held to organize for May 22, but no time and energy has been spent to engage the wider community. That is the same problem with the flag and pole at Milk Plaza. Our A-gay business owners and a former Human Rights Campaign board member, Wiener, prefer the status quo because it keeps them in control of many neighborhood matters.

If you're not part of the Wiener/MUMC/HRC circles, tough luck and go away with grassroots activism and desires to creatively use the public space of the Castro to meet all of the gay community's needs. Please, let's change that situation starting with DPW convening a public meeting about the public space known as Harvey Milk Plaza and the rainbow flag.

From the Chronicle:

Nothing says San Francisco like a fight over Elizabeth Taylor, Harvey Milk and flying the American flag. ...

The fight started last month, when a handful of Castro residents asked the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro to fly the flag at half-staff to honor Elizabeth Taylor, the Hollywood-star-and icon to gays who died in March. ...
But now the activists, spearheaded by local blogger Michael Petrelis, have upped the rhetorical ante and asked that the American flag be flown on Harvey Milk Day May 22. They've also asked the city to weigh in because the pole is on public land.
Adams says he has not yet received Petrelis' request to fly the American flag, but if he does, it will be considered like all others. Officials at the city's Department of Public Works, which maintains the plaza where the flag flies, say they have no interest in getting involved. ...
Others say it isn't exactly fair that one merchants group gets to control such an important icon.
"The flag has become this international symbol, and because of that maybe there's more responsibility for a community process to control the flag," said Andrea Aiello, head of the Castro Community Benefit District. ...


Martha Bridegam said...

About replacing the rainbow flag with the national flag one day a year: I understand you're wanting to say that Harvey Milk is a fully American hero to remember, not the hero only of one community -- but if the gesture causes the rainbow flag to be *taken down* it treats the two flags as mutually exclusive, which would imply the rainbow flag isn't fully American. That big uplifting rainbow flag at the end of the street is the only one like it in the world. It's a completely unique symbol of freedom and sanctuary. It needs to stay where it is.

Michael said...

my big wish is for more community control over the flag and pole, and to remove MUMC as the sole dictator of what happens to the rainbow flag. second, i've asked DPW to fly both the US and rainbow flags on one day - may 22 - harvey's birthday. i don't think the gay community or the flag and pole will crumble by adding the stars and stripes for one day.