Tag Archives: Castro

SF: What needs to happen next Halloween

Castro halloweenI strolled through the Castro last night (don’t even ask about the costume) and was, well, somewhat horrified. Not from the scary costumes or the violence ravaging the streets, but from the streams and streams of police patrolling the streets and the general malaise of the crowd.  Was there any violence? Well, no. But there was also, as the Home for Halloween campaign so visibly pointed out, there was no fun either.  Shops boarded up their windows with metal and plywood (see picture), as if they expected looting and garbage trucks through their window. This was not my city. Not the city of liberation that people have flocked to for so long. And most definitely not the San Francisco that I want to see in the future.

A brief recap to inform those not from the City. In the last two years there have been a number of violent incidents. There was a stabbing a couple of years ago, and some shootings last year.  It was clear that something needed to be changed. I cannot fault the Mayor, the Police, or Supervisor Dufty for wanting to do something. Last year was a baby step towards canceling the event, the streets were swept at 11PM (!?) and people told to leave before  the party had already started, and that’s when the violence began. So, there were clearly two choices: (A) Shut down the event or (B) Work to make it safer using known crowd control techniques. Clearly (A) has the effect of limiting violence and protecting the community, but couldn’t we do the same with (B) without losing the revenue and visibility for the City that Halloween brings?

Look, it is plainly possible to have a big Halloween party in a largely gay residential neighborhood, we need look no further than New York City to see how that should happen. They’ve been doing it for 34 years now, and once again it was successful. To say it can’t be done is misleading at best. Do we face different challenges than NYC? Sure. But can we have a safe event? Of course, we have to.

The long-term effects of telling people to stay away from our city for One Halloween might be minimal. We’ll likely recover from the lost revenue and the City spending to put hundreds, if not over a thousand, cops in the Castro. But we cannot continue to cower in fear of our own shadow. Of people who come here from outside of the City to harass the LGBT community. Our community is stronger than that, our City is stronger than that. So, over the flip is just one man’s opinion, my own, formed with the help of many community leaders on this issue, on how we could do this better next year.

Even Supervisor Dufty realizes that we cannot repeat what happened this year again next year:

“Next year it’s on a Friday,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose district includes the Castro and who crusaded to close the neighborhood to partiers after nine people were shot last year. “And there is no way that Halloween on a Friday is going to be a non-event. I have no illusion about that.

“In fact, I’ve already told the bars that I will not ask them to close next year.”(SF Chron 10.31.07) 

So, what do we do next year?

1) Have a parade.  SF Pride is one of the biggest LGBT pride events, if not the biggest, in the world. And yet it is safe every year. Sure, some hecklers come to protest the “agenda” but the party moves on with some strange costumes, even.  Why does this happen so smoothly? Well, it turns out, that parades are great crowd control events. They move people away from congested residential neighborhoods and into big park type areas.

2) Have a great big Venue at the end with entertainment. If this is beginning to sound more and more like SF Pride, that is no accident.  While there are certainly problems with Pride, they pale in comparison with Halloween. Why? Because people have stuff to do. It’s when people get bored and confused that bad stuff happens. So, take the Civic Center and make it into a party zone. It is what happens in New York City. The party begins in the Village, a residential neighborhood, and moves them away from that area. In our case, while the route would be long and hilly, the Civic Center seems the logical endpoint. That detail can be changed, but somebody is going to have to get over the NiMBYism for one evening.

3) Light up the night. This is just basic event planning, but darkness breeds bad stuff.

I welcome additional strategies and suggestions.  I love this city, and I want it to be as special as it should be. As it really is.