A day after SF Weekly reported on the strangeness of SF Pride's choices for grand marshal for this year's pride parade, the committee did something even more strange.
On Friday, board president Lisa L. Williams released a statement withdrawing the committee's nomination of Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, calling it a "mistake" and saying that a rogue staff person had contacted Manning prematurely after a few internal conversations.
"That was an error and the person has been disciplined."
Williams could not be reached for comment Monday morning, but her announcement stoked flames in the blogosphere. Within a few hours, several political publications -- including leading LGBT voice, The Advocate -- had joined the conversation. Incensed Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald chastised SFPride organizers for "sycophantic cowardice," and tweeted their list of corporate sponsors. In a subsequent column he called the Manning retraction a "seemingly trivial controversy" that spoke volumes about the organization's politics.
Local peaceniks Michael Petrelis, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and Lisa Geduldig quickly took up the cause and launched a protest of their own. They've invited supporters to a rally outside the SF Pride office at 5 p.m. today, and urged everyone to wear masks with the accused whistleblower's face. Geduldig says they've gained a lot of traction on Twitter and Facebook, and even inspired a statement from honorably discharged U.S. Navy Corpsman John Caldera, who called for Williams' resignation."
Petrelis is clearly giddy about the pride faux pas. He says the media storm has given him ammunition to throw at a board that's long butted heads with the more radical members of the LGBT community.
"I love Lisa Williams --she handed us a golden opportunity on a silver platter," he says. He adds that in recent years, event producers have delegated more time to "chasing corporate dollars" than advocating for controversial LGBT-related causes -- "like a queer whistleblower being court-martialed."
"Pride has sold out to big banks and corporations," Petrelis told us. "It's all just, 'come to Civic Center, open a bank account with Wells Fargo, get drunk on Absolut.' I'm not saying we cant have those things, but there's no balance."
But having an apolitical sentiment is itself a political statement, and some activists say that Manning-gate is actually the culmination of years of frustration. So far, more than 100 people have vowed to attend today's protest.