Nazi Flag = Trans Flag at Milk Plaza
(Who was present today? In the top photo, l-to-r, Scott Wiener, police caption for the Castro Bob Moser, Castro Benefit District leader Andrea Aiello, and police officer Chuck Limbert. Bottom photo, nudist and gay activists Rusty Mills, Woody Miller, Mitch Hightower and Ken Hodnett. Thanks colleagues, for showing up.)
Patrick Batt is a current member and former president of the Merchants of Upper Market Castro, who owns Auto Erotica on 18th Street.. At this morning's MUMC meeting, in his usual combative style when addressing control issues surrounding the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza, Batt presented his skewed historical view on how the flag was erected and MUMC came to control it.
After trashing transparency activists for pushing for an open process about equal access to the flagpole, Batt addressed what might happen if the Department of Public Works took domain of the flag.
Batt said that if DPW was given stewardship of the pole every group with a flag, from the Nazis to the trans community, would want to fly their flag in the middle of Milk Plaza. He inelegantly equated the Nazi and trans flags, setting off boos and hissed from many in the audience.
He has a point about a flag is a flag, but I am not aware of the Nazi Party making a request to MUMC. And if the Nazis came around with a request, and we had a responsible and transparent entity in charge of the flagpole, that entity could vote to reject the Nazi request.
MUMC today voted to retain control of the flagpole and henceforth and forthwith reject every single future request for any modification of the display at Milk Plaza.
That means the leather pride flag will no longer be raised at the start of Folsom Street Week at the end of every September and fly for seven-days as has been a long tradition. Oh, no more occasional flag lowerings for friends of MUMC leaders when they pass away also.
I asked the executive director of Folsom Fair Events, the group that puts on the Dore Alley and Folson kink fairs, Demetri Moshiyannis, for his reaction to MUMC new draconian policy:
This is a failure of community leadership and a real breakdown in communication. The leather pride flag has flown for years without any controversy. I feel like a good faith compromise could have been reached; but, MUMC chose an "all or nothing" approach. I think this is sad.
Since the raising of the leather pride flag in September has long been associated with a walk-a-thon component that raises much money for the AIDS Emergency Fund, one of the most respected HIV services organizations in town (including always receiving due praise from even me!), I wanted to hear from the fund.
Mike Smith, the executive director for AEF sent me this comment:
Leatherwalk was started 20 years ago as a way to bring the leather community together for a fun afternoon to raise funds for AIDS Emergency Fund. That was long before there was a rainbow flag at Market and Castro, and long before a Leather flag was raised there in each September. I expect that Leatherwalk will continue as a community tradition regardless of whether there is a flag raising ceremony.
I'm in agreement with Demetri's disappointment with MUMC's latest act of failed leadership, and it's good to know Mike and his agency will march ahead for more Leatherwalks when it's Folsom time!
As we enter the next phase of MUMC's flag control bullying and continued elitist operations, I wish to point to a better way of doing things and that mean citing the example of San Diego's LGBT community rainbow flag on property.
The Hillcrest Business Association, which holds regular open meetings, has a great page explaining how they build and now maintain their rainbow flagpole. HBA also shares links to several news stories about how they brought the LGBT community, city government and local businesses, and with a transparent process developed their stewardship agreement:
- Gay San Diego: “Community Discusses Permanent Pride Flag for Hillcrest” — October 2011
- SDLGN: “Planning Commission reviews LGBT Projects” — April 2012
- SDGLN: “Rainbow Flag will fly high in Hillcrest” — May 2012
- UT San Diego: “Rainbow Flag Raising kicks off Pride Weekend” — July 2012
- San Diego 10 News: “Pride Weekend Begins Tonight in Hillcrest” — July 2012
- Thats So Gay Live: “Raising the Rainbow Flag over Hillcrest” — July 2012
- San Diego Architectural Foundation: “Hillcrest Pride Flag” — August 2012