Thursday, November 01, 2012

MUMC Member:
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:
Read those stories and you'll see there is a better way for San Francisco to maintain our public flagpole in the Castro. We could learn a lot from our LGBT family in San Diego.


woody said...

HMMM I did not read these details in Matthew Bajko’s online article about the meeting. Oh yeah, I forgot, he is a member of MUMC too! So much for an independent press. I wonder how they voted on the Nudity Ban.

Anonymous said...

Godwin's Law in REAL LIFE

Godwin observed that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler and the Nazis's_law

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to point out here that the answer does not necessarily need to be giving control of the flag at Harvey Milk Plaza to the Department of Public works. It seems to me that the issue is transparency around the decision making process with regards to the public space in our neighborhood. MUMC *could* facilitate that, however, they are a business association, and should probably worry about how they are going to encourage businesses to come in to our empty store fronts.

I suppose a good candidate for that would be someone we all agreed would represent our interests and would help lead SF into a bright future. Gosh... sounds like...

With the new policy, however, the only decisions that will now need to be made are: When do we replace the Pride flag next and where do we get the funds to do it?

Unknown said...

I too was surprised Bajko's blog post for the BAR site about the vote didn't mention how the paper's ad rep had a vote at MUMC and how he voted. Thanks for the comment, Woody. You prodded me to email the BAR rep/MUMC member and ask how he voted. If he replies, I'll make a new post.

Stephen R. Stapleton, Sacramento, CA said...

While I am loath to admit it, Patrick Batt has a point about the Nazi flag. If the City and County of San Francisco controlled what flag is flown, they would be required by the First Amendment to have a "content neutral" policy about what flag is flown. In other words, the policy could not discriminate against the message of the flag, however abhorrent. How long do you think this policy would be in place before the Westboro Baptist Church applied to fly a "God Hates Fags" flag? The only viable policy would be to fly only the Pride flag as then there wouldn't be a choice about flag to fly.

Frankly, I am not even sure the fig leaf of having MUMC in charge of deciding what flag flies would cover a challenge (as MUMC is acting on behalf of The City about city property) if MUMC enacted a policy of allowing other flags to fly. From what I can tell from photos, the Hillcrest Pride Flag is on private property and, as such, not subject to First Amendment controls.

I support a pluralistic society with differing viewpoints, so I am not particularly upset that only the Pride flag should be shown, but there really should be a reasonable, coherent, and transparent policy about when and for how long the flag is flown at half staff.