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Home News + Politics SF responds to Orlando horror with dignity, resolve, and numbers

SF responds to Orlando horror with dignity, resolve, and numbers

More than 5,000 take to the streets to defy homophobia and violence

The candlelight vigil became a march from the Castro to Civic Center.

The worst mass shooting in US history took place at a gay nightclub in Orlando, a place that catered to many Latino patrons.

Many Republicans, including Donald Trump, are already using the shooting to promote Islamophobia, since the shooter, who was armed with a legally purchased assault rifle, was a Muslim.

This happened just as cities around the nation are starting to celebrate Pride Month.

The horror of the previous three sentences is almost too much to handle.

Memorial at 18th and Castro
Memorial at 18th and Castro

At the Lone Star Saloon in SoMa this afternoon, where a previously scheduled benefit for the Dyke March and the Trans March was also the beginning of an evening of memorials for the dead and wounded in Orlando, there was an unsettled feeling; several people told us that they felt a little nervous, even in San Francisco, to be in a gay bar right now.

But there was also a feeling of solidarity; we kept hearing people say “I’m much happier now that I’m here,” with a large, visible, community.

There will be time (and it needs to come soon) when we once again try to force this nation to address that fact that it’s way too easy for a person filled with hate to buy a weapon that can kill huge numbers of people very quickly. The is no reason for anyone in this country to be walking the streets with an assault rifle.

But tonight, people in San Francisco were mourning, organizing, and talking about the fact that even in 2016, it’s not safe to be an LGBT person in the United States.

President Obama called the shooting an “act of terror” first, and “an act of hate” second. Terror is a term that politicians love to use; it’s how the country whips up militaristic sentiment. We don’t know what motivated the shooter, not entirely, but if there is any such thing as a hate crime, this was one.

The people at the club were targeted not because they were Americans but because they were gay. The killer’s religion is only relevant to the extent that too many religious extremists, including people who call themselves Christians, hold homophobic, even violent homophobic views.

And it will be easy in the next few days for political opportunists to use this incident to further divide already marginalized communities.

Sup David Campos told the crowd:

I feel this so deeply as a queer Latino. This was an attack that hits me personally We’ve lost the only queer Latino space in San Francisco already. At Esta Noche in the Mission, as a young gay Latino, I felt the two sides of myself coming together. I finally felt at home with myself and others. To see another space like that so brutally torn apart hurts me so much.

But we will not let one act of hatred by an individual or group cause us to run and hide in fear. We will not let this act of hatred against us be used against another vulnerable group. We stand today with American Muslims to say “no more violence.”

The audience applauded. Then there was a moment of silence.

This evening, San Francisco responded to the violence with dignity, class – and numbers. At least 5,000 showed up at 18th and Castro for a vigil and march to City Hall. The march at one point stretched nearly all the way down Market, from Castro to Van Ness.

A huge crowd packed Castro street
A huge crowd packed Castro street

Campos and Sup. Scott Wiener, the two LGBT members of the Board of Supes, were the MCs for the event. Wiener started off by talking about the two diseases that afflict the country – LGBT violence and “the disease of guns whose only purpose is to kill people.”

Before the vigil, Wiener had told us, “What happened this morning was horrific, but also depressing in terms of still seeing so much violence against gay people. But this community so resilient in bouncing back. We need to mourn, but then also recommit ourselves to reducing the number of guns in our country.”

(We ran into Sheriff Vicky Hennessy backstage, and she said pretty much the same thing: “There is no reason for anyone to be able to buy an AR-15 with this type of bullets,” she said. “This is not a Second Amendment issue.”)

A feeling of mourning permeated the crowd that gathered in the Castro. Photo by David Schnur.
A feeling of mourning permeated the crowd that gathered in the Castro. Photo by David Schnur.

Campos talked about the impact the shooting had on him as a gay Latino man. “The worst mass shooting in US history targeted the queer and Latino community,” he said. “I want to be sure the Latino community is not lost in all of this.”

He went on: “We think because we have gay marriage that the work is done. But people of color are marginalized even in our own community.”

He also pointed out that the current political climate has an ugly side. “To Donald Trump, I want to say that there are consequences when you talk about hate.”

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence lead the crowd in chants of "Raise your light high!"
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence lead the crowd in chants of “Raise your light high!” Photo by David Schnur.

Suzanne Barakat, a doctor at SF General and a Muslim, spoke eloquently about how violence spreads. “Three members of my family were killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina because of their faith,” she said. “The anguish is indescribable. To those who are consumed by hatred, you will not define us.”

Campos made a point of calling up leaders of the Latino community, who apparently were not on Wiener’s radar when he first started to pull together the event. “We’re here because we asked to be here,” Lito Sandoval, president of the Latino Democratic Club, said. “Latino leaders were not contacted initially.”

Mark Leno spoke about the fact that "Its easier for someone like this to buy a gun in America than a gay person to donate blood to help out in a tragedy" -- referring to the FDA ban on gay men contributing blood if they've engaged in sex in the past 12 months.
Mark Leno spoke about the fact that “Its easier for someone like this to buy a gun in America than a gay person to donate blood to help out in a tragedy” — referring to the FDA ban on gay men contributing blood if they’ve engaged in sex in the past 12 months. Photo by David Schnur.

Elected officials took the stage after the community leaders. Mayor Ed Lee made a short, limited speech, which was interrupted repeatedly by boos. State Senator Mark Leno told the crowd that “my breaking heart joins your breaking heart.” He noted that “our community has experience so much violence; our history is filled with violence against people who are just trying to be themselves.”

He, like Campos, pointed out that this isn’t happening in a vacuum, that public figures who make homophobic remarks are empowering violence. And he called for a ban on assault weapons.

As the speakers went on and the crowd grew, darkness began to fall and the Castro filled with candlelight. Photo by David Schnur.
As the speakers went on and the crowd grew, darkness began to fall and the Castro filled with candlelight. Photo by David Schnur.

Tom Ammiano took things to another level. “Fuck the NRA,” he said as he took the mic. “I am old and queer and full of gay blood, but we are going to fight back.”

Then he said that the attack had been provoked by a kiss. “So let’s all kiss,” he said, turning to Mayor Lee and planting one on his face, then turning to the acting police chief and doing the same.

(Lee did not seem at all comfortable with the situation. When Ammiano was later asked by reporters if he had managed to kiss the mayor on the mouth, he said “my lips are sealed.”)

Ammiano then went on to talk about “laissez-faire homophobia” – the comments and positions by politicians and other prominent figures that dismiss LGBT rights. “And I’m talking about the archbishop, too,” he said. “The blood is on your hands.”

(This, by the way, is why Tom is a civic treasure.)

Ammiano told us afterward that he thinks the first float in this year’s Pride Parade should be gay Latinos, with representation from Orlando.

One the last speakers was Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin. Before he came up on stage, Campos noted that “it’s easier for someone to get his hands on an assault rifle than it is for a gay man to give blood.” The chief looked out over the crowd and said:

“The NRA is a powerful group. But I sense a more powerful group here.”

Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin took the stage. Photo By David Schnur.
Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin took the stage. Photo By David Schnur.

With that, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus launched into several heartfelt tunes, and the vigil became a march down Market Street from Castro to City Hall, which was lit up with the colors of of the Rainbow Flag.

The candlelight vigil became a march from the Castro to Civic Center.
The candlelight vigil became a march from the Castro to Civic Center. Photo by David Schnur.
Photo by David Schnur.
Photo by David Schnur.




  1. Massacre reflection of entrench, “homophobic attitudes lingering in America”. LGBTQ society we must address besides “marriage” struggle is among. Dedication of strength don’t allow legislature to ignore us,bigotry and sexism LGBTQ society. San Francisco before use “Orlando massacre solidarity where liberties. LGBTQ mention death of Bryan Higgins “2014” were respect from SFPD? Toney Chaplin,Ed Lee,London Breed and Scott not concern it’s political LGBTQ do understand your government? Castro,Diamond Heights and Hayes Valley highest,evictions TIC San Francisco is divided vote taxing cartels. Whom economically taking authority into there agenda support Ellis Act. Criticizing saying,LGBTQ hierarchy chosen represent choice regarding hate crimes it’s profound. Unity is necessary to accomplish, empowerment admire support Castro,retain residency voted. Approved Prop K,C and A ask Scott,London and Ed regarding,housing repeal and rentals for LGBTQ society?

    Housing,equality and economic programs empower “LGBTQ” society recommend “LGBTQ” Scott hold forum. Bring global firms, emphasize hiring diversity I didn’t say “exclusively” preference chance of success. Scott did tell,residents “BOMA S.F, plans rezone upper market addition R-3 and hotels where BMR units we. Voted for change for Castro new communities ask MOHDC,families have my condolence. Sadly,politicians don’t remember tragedy: pretense where going hold them accountable for social change. SFPD Toney Chaplin are for equality only “jargon”since many officers detest LGBTQ consider us prostitutes! Incident where LGBTQ couple car jacked in …Feb 2016 West Portal SFPD officers where offensive. Wore gloves and
    mask “conveying” (LGBTQ men are contagious) of what? Fight for equality economic policies, gentrification which taking away respect. LGBTQ society promote fair trade benefit are society.Wilson Cruz decrying “bigotry don’t go there where donations to LGBTQ society?

    Bought 2 homes with cash in “San Francisco” forgotten used LGBTQ realtors, marvelous “celebrities using Orlando massacres! Slander in San Francisco downtown when see,couples false pretense makes sense. Political San Francisco is “welcoming” for whom,certainly not diversity experiencing hidden racism towards LGBTQ. Noe Valley always friendly no longer, bigotry enough we care justice for all stratified attitudes. Whom elite LGBTQ we, must take a stance,fight is among us social justice failed. LGBTQ society Stephan Kawa and Jose Cisneros (feel the rally of solidarity) racially segregated…media it hate. Crime on heritage not so much LGBTQ? Mission,Castro and Noe Valley largest TIC evictions,where united for social change!

  2. In this Time of Sadness I am Proud of My Community and In My Own Way I Will Continue The Fight!!

  3. San Francisco’s archbishop is a disgusting homophobe and is called the father of Proposition 8. Given that the Vatican has not apologized for demonizing LGBTs, including the insidious claim that allowing gays to adopt is like committing violence against those children, or that it shouldn’t be a surprise that violence is committed against gays when the work to have rights, Ammiano is exactly right to call out members of one of world’s most prolific generators of anti-gay hate speech.

    Every word matters.

  4. The visuals are all very touching, but I am so sick of politicians using the dead to advance their agendas. While Campos says that targeting the Muslim community is wrong, he overlooks that certain members of the Muslim community are very much targeting the gay community both here and in Islamic countries all over the Middle East, where gay people are hung from construction cranes or thrown from buildings.

    And there goes Ammiano, picking on the Archbishop, when Christians in Islamic countries, like gay people are being slaughtered; and enlisting the dead of Orlando to be posthumous activists for gun control. What we need is less gun control and more Pink Pistols. http://www.pinkpistols.org/

  5. I was there to march in solidarity with my fallen brethren in Orlando and not to listen to opportunistic speeches from people who had little or nothing to do with what happened.

  6. Well you can blame the British for that they were the first ones from the Western Hemisphere to invade Afghanistan long before the U.S. Got involved

  7. You don’t need to read a made up storybook from another religion. Just read history and you’ll understand that “wars and violence among tribes with different religious viewpoints” has been commonplace not just in the Middle East, but throughout the entire world. I think everyone understands though, that this phenomenon is different. People from Afghanistan did not go to other places and bomb and shoot people until their country was messed with.

  8. Tom Ammiano planting big wet ones on the faces of Mayor Lee and Acting Police Chief Chaplin is one of the best public “Fuck You” responses to homophobic haters like the Orlando shooter.

  9. Sandy Hook Elementary; Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre, Charleston, South Carolina,
    Church shooting of 9; Orlando, Florida: What do all of these mass killings have in common? The means — assault rifles; not the victims — school children, movie goers, black church members, LGBT nightclub enthusiasts. The shooters’ personal array of hatreds or prejudices, personal disappointments and social isolation vary. Their individual expressions of insanity are many headed beasts and impossible to follow and track. But assault rifles are very simple creatures. And each of these very different shooters held only the assault rifle in common. Ban assault rifle sales outside of military use, and we substantially reduce the carnage.

  10. The American left is greatly influenced by Jews and is not truly anti Zionist. Bernie Sanders actually addressed this issue and stated that Americans can support Israel while disagreeing with Netanyahu on certain issues.
    The perpetrators of these mass atrocities all fit strikingly similar psychological profiles. Dimitri Tsarnaev , James Homes, Dylan Roof, the Columbine killers , the Virginia tech killer, Mohammed Atta and the Orlando shooter – one days it’s gay people who are the target another day it is black people or students or marathon runners…there are always going to be angry disturbed people in the world it has little to do with American policies in the Middle East

  11. Not true. Islamic terrorism is not new. It has little to do with American imperialism. The Middle East has a long history of wars and violence among tribes with different religious viewpoints. If you don’t believe me read the Bible.

  12. yeah, but try to get T (Trump) to agree to including Xtians. The KKK wouldn’t like that on bit 🙁

    edit: ‘DT’ (donald trump) … yeah, gives me nightmares

  13. I too am of the view that lack of gun control and homophobia are only proximal causes of this horrific crime. I do believe we need to fight homophobia, and I do believe that it’s absurd to let people have access to automatic weapons and unleash them on the streets. But Islamic terrorism has taken things to a whole new level. This vile act has more in common with the Paris massacre (when the whole world expressed solidarity), the bombing of the Russian passenger jet (which no one seemed to give a damn about), and the dozens of bombings in places like Lebanon and Turkey (which the western press barely even reports on in its gradient of victim value).

    But let’s take a deeper look at Islamic terrorism. It did not come out of the blue, you know. Islam has existed for millenia. But Islamic terrorism has only been around for a few decades. Why do you think that is?
    Could it be because the United States and its allies have destroyed country after country in the Islamic world and turned them into hopeless hellholes? Like Afghanistan, where we turned a peaceful Communist country where women had full rights, into a 35 year war zone? Or Libya which had the highest standard of living in Africa and is now a playground for ISIS? Or Palestine, whose people have endured a brutal occupation for 50 years? Or Saudi Arabia, where the US arms the worst dictatorship in the entire world? Or Iraq, or Syria, or Yemen, etc, etc.

    What do you think is going to be the reaction of the people living there? It’s disingenuous for Hillary Clinton to talk about how wrong it is to unleash “weapons of war” on the streets of the United States, when she hideously laughs at unleashing weapons of war on places like Libya. We mourn the needless deaths of 50 people in Orlando, but we need to understand that 50 people die in a single drone strike on weekly basis in the country where this guy has family. It can happen anywhere, any time. You can be in a wedding party, tending your flock of sheep, at a holiday gathering, working in a hospital, and you live with the knowledge that at any moment an American drone will rain death upon you and turn you and your family and friends into little bits of dismembered flesh where you can’t even tell which parts belong to the humans and which belong to the cattle. THAT is the reality of life in these countries.

    The anger and hatred they must feel toward the West is enormous. And that’s why these people are ripe for radicalization. It’s very easy for radical imams to portray this as a war against Islam. From their perspective it sure looks like one.

    It’s not, of course. It’s a war for hegemony, and Islam is just in the way of US control of natural resources. It’s not even about cheap oil per se. We have enough oil. It’s about control. It’s about making sure the natural resources are entirely under US dominance, and available to other nations ONLY if they follow the US Imperial line. It’s about ensuring that no other nation on earth can pursue their rights to self-determination.

    So yes, homophobia is sick and wrong. Access to automatic weapons is outrageous. But until we deal with Empire, this shit will never end.

  14. I’m waiting for the Dems & Rs to get together and propose “Gun Control for Muslim Wackos”.

    If ever there was room for a compromise solution, this would be it.

  15. as a queer person i cannot as for the support and solidarity of those outside our community without also holding ourselves accountable – we cannot keep saying Orlando was the worst or largest mass shoot in american history. Approximately 300 Sioux Nation men, women, and children were gunned down by our racist government on the morning of December 29, 1890. It does our community no good and gives the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting no honor to be complicit in this erasure. We’ve experienced a terrible loss, but we also must stand in solidarity with other communities who have also experienced this type of violence.

  16. Your post is one big lie. The gunman was born in New York. His family is from Afghanistan – not an Arab country. This is nothing to do with Israel. ‘The left’ has not given ‘a pass’ to Arab nations that persecute gays, PERIOD.

    Eventually, we will be able to ban the sales of killing machines to people under the watch of the FBI, but only when ‘the left’ prevails against the morons on ‘the right.’

  17. The left has gotten itself in something of a corner here. Having historically been anti-Zionist and opposed to US support for Israel, the left has effectively been in the position of being less than totally critical of and opposed to Arab terrorism.

    So now there is a domestic terror incident in the mainland, and moreover it targeted gays – another group that the left typically supports. So the emphasis here is on homophobia and gun control, rather than seeing this for what it also is – an attack on Americans in our own nation by those who bitterly hate our nation and all our freedoms.

    If this had been the usual (sad to even use that word here) white male serial killer or mass murderer, such a response would be entirely on point. But Europe’s strict gun control hasn’t stopped a whole spate of such incidents, most recently the Paris attacks. Terrorists will be able to get these weapons regardless of any laws or restrictions we pass.

    While the intolerance towards gays in Arab nations is hardly a secret to anyone. Yet the left, up to now, has given a pass to those Arab nations that persecute gays because they are considered to be on the right side of the struggle with Zionism.

    Part hate crime and part terrorist attack, this tragedy is creating some strange bedfellows and awkward conflicts of interests.

  18. Wanna start the process of dealing with this shit?

    Every time you hear a racist, sexist or homophobic remark from politicians, priests, colleagues, etc, friends and even family, call it out. Say that it isn’t acceptable.

    We witnessed vile racism directed at Obama throughout his presidency and rarely were people held responsible. We have seen sexism as a response to Clinton (I’m a Sanders supporter), and we see homophobia from so-called people of faith and NONE of it is OK.

    Hateful speech is the emotional ammo used by nutcases to kill people. If we can’t ban the selling of killing machines to people under investigation by the FBI, then we should try to let people know that they can have hateful thoughts, but they can’t give voice to those thoughts in public without getting big pushback from good people.

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