But when we crossed paths with Kevin "Nestor Makhno" Keating and his merry band of revolutionaries, we knew everything would be OK. Keating and his band were headed to our rally -- the rally we'd helped stage.
"Yuppies out! Quality in! Yuppies out! Quality in!" they chanted, an insurrectionist infantry 35 members strong with Keating in the lead, looking happier than Dog Bites had ever seen him look. They were accompanied by a couple of police cars. We trailed the marchers for a block or so, but when they kept going straight up Valencia we cut back over to the park.
Several dozen people had assembled on the corner of 18th and Dolores, and the media had arrived. Dog Bites headed into the crowd, notebook in hand. Who was in charge? Nobody knew, and nobody cared. But given the equal-time-to-both-sides exigencies of the news, the several television crews on hand were trying to find yuppies or yuppie supporters they could interview. This was difficult, as the only "yuppies" in attendance seemed to be of the pseudo- or street theater variety, including a man from Oakland who was distributing large cardboard signs reading "Make Lofts, Not War," "Save Our SUVs," and "Give Greed a Chance."
One woman, who gave her name as Connie Ramirez Weber, told Channel 2 that she supported the yuppies because they made "better neighbors."
"I'm sure they're going to keep up the buildings," she told the camera, before confiding to Dog Bites that she expected about 30 more pro-yuppie demonstrators. "They should be coming," she said. "The police said they were marching over here in a group." Dog Bites didn't have the heart to inform her the marchers were actually supporters of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project.
A heavy-set brown-shirted man who identified himself as Louis Calabro, president of the European-American Issues Forum, handed members of the media copies of his petition, which called for the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate whether the "code word 'anti-yuppie' crusade of intimidation and interference is in reality an unlawful attack against European Americans establishing a strong presence in the 'Mission District' in violation of United States Government code Title 18 Section 245 (b) (2) (F) that prohibits such activity if it is based on race, color, religion or national origin."
Calabro explained again and again to various news crews that he was not Bradley, the putative organizer of the rally, but that he agreed completely with what Bradley had to say. Somehow, he managed to convey the impression that he and Bradley had spent long hours together discussing this and many other issues; reporters asked him repeatedly when Bradley would be arriving to speak.
"Fascist! He's a fascist!" interrupted one highly agitated agitator, jabbing his finger at Calabro.
Ramirez Weber told him to be quiet.
"You shut up!" he ordered her.
"Don't you tell me to shut up!" she yelled back, her hair quivering.
A very stoned-looking shaven-headed Scottish man called out, "No more yoopies!" No one answered him, and after a disappointed moment he wandered off, skateboard under his arm.
More people were arriving every minute; the crowd spread up the slope to the tennis courts and milled about the sunny lawn, the sidewalk, and the lovely old shade trees. It was, clearly, a fine day for a demonstration.
And the non-appearance of the yuppies didn't seem to concern anyone. "They're probably still eating brunch," one man yelled derisively, to hoots of laughter from the crowd.
Reporters clustered briefly around a man who was declaiming, "Some change is good! Change is inevitable," and who theorized that the demonstration was "a stunt being propagated by people who don't want freedom for everyone. The weird thing is that I live in this neighborhood, but I don't see any of the usual activists here. I think this whole thing was staged."
By who, exactly? "There are a lot of people who live in the Mission who are against freedom for everybody," he replied darkly.
"Oh, what, like multinational corporations?" sneered one bystander.
"Stop the hate! Kill the poor! Stop the hate! Kill the poor!" a small group of faux-yuppies in wrinkled business dress chanted. They were interrupted by a man blowing on a conch shell, loudly and at random intervals, who seemed not to be related to anything else going on at the demonstration, and who blithely ignored other crowd members' requests to shut the fuck up. Another group of protesters arrived bearing signs that read "Hate can be productive."
One man carrying a sign reading "What's next? Gucci on Mission. Prada on 24th" briefly led a segment of the crowd in a chant of, "Pra-DA! Pra-DA! Pra-DA! Pra-DA!," which, it must be said, is one of the only slogans Dog Bites, in a lifetime of attending various demonstrations, has ever felt we could really get behind.
A muted roar from the south side of the demonstration greeted the triumphal entrance of Kevin and his band, who had marched to the top of Dolores Park so as to be able to charge down the hill to confront the yuppies. Chanting, "One, two, three, four, stop the hatred of the poor," the revolutionaries swept into the crowd, where they quickly lost all momentum. Keating gave a brief speech introducing himself, which was greeted warmly by his own supporters, but many of the other attendees seemed unimpressed.
"It's 1999, baby," said one jaded hipster to his friends, and then, when they laughed at this, asked, "Anyone got any pot?"
No one obliged, but a couple of people passed through the crowd with burning sage sticks.
Just then, a small contingent of Hell's Angels roared down Dolores and made a right on 18th, to cheers and clenched fist salutes from some in the crowd. The dozen or so uniformed SFPD officers on hand stood up straight, but the bikers didn't stop and the tone of the day returned to Protest As Usual.
Finally, it appeared that members of La Raza were stepping in to fill the power vacuum left by Bradley and the other yuppies' non-appearance. A man with a megaphone ascended the grass slope to stand next to the chain-link fence surrounding the nearest tennis court. "This shit ain't funny!" he bellowed. "Half you people came just to show up!" There was a tiny silence as the crowd, by now over 200 people strong, pondered the logic of this statement.
"You are all yuppies!" he continued. "This nation is rich and we are the rich! You are the yuppies! Look yourself in the mirror! You are the yuppies! You are the enemy!"
"Whooooo!" cheered the La Raza contingent, though the rest of the crowd didn't appear especially won over by this rhetoric. The man with the conch shell blew and blew, drowning out part of the speech that followed, which concluded, "This meeting was made up by yuppies, for yuppies!"
The speaker passed the megaphone to a young woman in capri pants and a hooded sweat shirt, who immediately drew a parallel between European colonization of North America and gentrification in the Mission. "Who washes your dishes? Who does your dry cleaning?" she asked. "It's raza! Who does that shit? Who takes care of your lawn? It's raza! We don't want you here! We don't want you driving your sport utility vehicles, showing off how life has given you opportunities!"
"BO-ring," chanted a few people at the back of the crowd, but quietly.
"Today is the Mayan New Year!" she yelled. "How many of you knew that? How many of you even know the history of the peoples you displaced when your ancestors came to this land? How many of you even know that this very land here is a mass grave of the native peoples murdered by the original gentrifiers?"
After a few more references to murder and genocide, her supporters wound it up with some vigorous rounds of: "Se ve!/ Se siente!/ Mi raza/ Esta presente!," at least as far as we could tell over the sound of the conch shell.
Another man took the megaphone and screamed, "Fuck your neighbors!" This, inexplicably, raised a cheer, and he continued, "You know what? We wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning to make your fucking coffee for you! Fuck you!" (Wild cheering.) "Fuck you! We will not move beyond the city gates for you! Fuck you! Fuck you!"
More cheering and a generalized chant of, "Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!"
Meanwhile, two camera operators standing behind Dog Bites discussed the rally. "I don't know. We got a press release," said one.
"Same here," replied the other.
The hooded woman had taken the megaphone again to harangue the crowd some more. "Your existence is a 500-year-old hate crime!" she told us.
A disgruntled Kevin Keating, who'd been trying to get a turn with the megaphone himself, huffed back down the hill. "Those racist demagogues aren't going to let me near the bullhorn," he stormed. He went off to discuss the situation with his own supporters.
A man approached Dog Bites to ask who we represented. On hearing SF Weekly, he said, "Well, I hope you guys are going to do this as a serious story. I mean, I appreciate that you've given the issue some coverage, but a lot of your stories make it seem like this is all kind of a joke, like you don't take it seriously or something."
Ummm ... oh, wait -- there's someone we have to talk to over there! Gotta go!
"I think it was a smashing success," said Keating, when we caught up with him again. "It was a complete and total rout of the bourgeois in the Mission."
Things were winding down; we realized we'd started to get a sunburn, a cold wind had come up, and it was well past lunchtime.
We heard Keating talking to a group of his friends. "On the advice of my attorney, I'm going to get something to eat," he said.
As told to Laurel Wellman
Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.