Every summer for the last 23 years, a few blocks of San Francisco's gay-centric Castro district have burst with people celebrating Pink Saturday, an official Pride event the day before the famous parade. Started in 1991 by AIDS activists as a permit-free party, Pink Saturday is now run by the SIsters of Perpetual Indulgence, a nonprofit group of cross-dressing fake nuns. From a neighborhood event to a global phenomenon, Pink Saturday has grown into a massive draw for locals and travelers from around the world.
In recent years, however, the party has gotten out of hand. In 2010, 19-year-old Stephen Powell was shot and killed near the celebration while two others were injured. Last year, an Oakland man and a gang of four others robbed and brutally assaulted a woman. Just this year, one of the Sisters and her husband were attacked at the intersection of 18th and Castro, which hit a little too close to home for some members of the community.
"As far as I'm concerned Pink Saturday is done, it's over, and it needs to stop," said drag personality and Castro Theatre supporter Peaches Christ on Facebook. "I'm sad that something that was once so fun and creative and celebratory is nothing more than a shit-show of hooliganism."
Sister Selma Soul, who has been in charge of putting together the event for the past three years, has said that the Sisters have been trying to increase security measures at Pink Saturday in order to keep it a safe place for young LGBT people. This year, the increased measures included SFPD officers, 80 private security guards, metal detecting wands, and suggested donation cans at the event gates. Unfortunately, the crowd grew rowdy and troublesome in the evening, according to the Sister.
Other solutions include moving the start and end times of the event to earlier in the day, as well as restricting the party to a smaller area, focused on the 400 block of Castro Street from Market to 18th and 18th from Noe to Collingwood.
"There are Sisters strongly interested in doing the event again next year, but we all agree that will only happen with significant changes to the event such as ending it earlier in the evening," said Sister Selma Soul. "We are scheduling a meeting with [Supervisor] Scott Weiner and SFPD to begin dialogue and see if the city is open to some of the ideas the Sisters have been discussing based on our experiences with the event and feedback we’ve received from the community. Once we see how those discussions go, the Sisters will be deciding whether we want to produce the event again, transition it to a third party, or recommend that the city cancel the event altogether.”