Signs at the Come Together rally in San Francisco's Castro District Photo: Kevin L. Jones/KQED
Signs at the Come Together rally in San Francisco's Castro District (Photo: Kevin L. Jones/KQED)

‘Come Together’ Rally Draws Thousands to Castro to Combat Hate

‘Come Together’ Rally Draws Thousands to Castro to Combat Hate

Around two thousand people gathered in the streets of San Francisco’s Castro district Saturday to protest the far-right rallies planned for the Bay Area this weekend.

The organizers of the "Come Together" event in the Castro, one of many such counter-protests happening all over the city, conceived of it as a non-confrontational action against the rally organized by the far-wing Patriot Prayer group, which was scheduled to be held the same day in Crissy Park.

On Friday, Patriot Prayer organizers canceled their original plans over safety concerns. Yet attendees of the counter-protest still packed Harvey Milk Plaza, many of them dressed in drag despite sweltering temperatures.

Some of the signs at the Come Together rally
Some of the signs at the Come Together rally (Kevin L. Jones/KQED)

"Something we want to be intentional when doing this, is not reacting to hate, but acting for love," Edward Wright, an organizer of Come Together, said. "Not just being reactive but proactive about the values we hold common as San Franciscans."

In the wake of President Donald Trump's anti-transgender stance for the military, counter-protesters in the Castro expressed their fears concerning the state of civil rights for LGBTQ people.

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"The hate is still there and it's still a threat," said demonstrator Bretchen Towers. "And we still have to be dominant."

Such sentiment is shared by longtime activists like Cleve Jones, who helped drag performer Juanita More organize the event and raise money for related causes via NoHateSF.org, the online fundraising platform the organizers set up specifically for the event.

Jones, 62, says he's worried that the current administration could undo so much of what he fought for these past four decades.

"I think everything that we’ve achieved is reversible,"Jones said in a phone interview earlier this week. "I have lived long enough to see extraordinary changes in the lives of LGBT people, but I know quite clearly that all of that progress can be undone in the blink of an eye.”

NextGen America Founder Tom Steyer gives a rousing speech
NextGen America Founder Tom Steyer gives a rousing speech (Kevin L. Jones/KQED)

Counter-protesters shared their feelings on stage and off throughout the event.

Olga Talamante, executive director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation, a non-profit organization which promotes professional and leadership development of Latinas, admitted that before Trump's presidency, she thought she would finally get to relax after decades of political activism. "I have a new 'R&R' in my life," Talamante said. "Resist and Rebuild!"

Demonstrators waiting for the Come Together Rally to start
Demonstrators waiting for the Come Together Rally to start (Kevin L. Jones/KQED)

Meanwhile, demonstrator Ellen Young said she felt it was imperative to get out and protest. "I teach at a community college and the population of students I serve are particularly vulnerable to hate and marginalization," Young said. "I feel like if I didn't stand up, I'd be doing them a disservice."

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