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Started: 2017-07-02 20:54:35

Submitted: 2017-07-02 23:04:12

Visibility: World-readable

25 June 2017: In which the intrepid narrator watches the San Francisco Pride Parade

For the second year in a row, I took BART to downtown San Francisco -- a few stops from my house -- to watch the Pride Parade. (It's not even "Gay Pride" any more -- just "Pride"; fill in the blank to decide what it means to you. This is obviously more inclusive, but might also dilute the message.)

San Francisco Pride Parade
San Francisco Pride Parade

I got a later start than I intended and made my way to Market Street shortly before the opening act Dykes on Bikes roared down the route to open the parade. I found a spot on the sidewalk and tried to carve out enough space to stand and watch, and occasionally try to grab a picture between the heads (and between the cameras) of people around me.

Dykes on Bikes at Pride
Dykes on Bikes at Pride

Then there was a forty-five minute wait as the crowds packing both sides of the street waited. At one point a cop stationed on the parade route in front of us told us that a resist group in the parade had decided to resist the parade by stopping it -- apparently making their own political statement.

Crowds wait for Pride
Crowds wait for Pride

At length the parade moved, and I finally got to see the resist group and their signs and slogans.

Resist leads Pride
Resist leads Pride

The first major entry -- apparently the 'resist' group that had stalled the parade -- was overtly political: there were signs and slogans promoting explicit resistance to the Trump administration. I am broadly sympathetic with this goal (though I do wish most of the left would shut up already about impeachment, because that's not a productive line of discussion, and focus instead on specific things we can meaningfully address), though it clearly exposed a rift in the people behind Pride. Most of the rest of the parade was somewhat-bland corporate groups marching in general support; but up front I saw slogans wanting to kick [evil] corporations out of Pride (if they did that, it would be a very short parade), and some expressed concern with the event's police presence (given the general tendency of police forces to enforce the status quo in opposition to social change movements; and in particular Black Lives Matter). Health care was important, with most signs promoting single payer. Some signs advocated the abolition of capitalism and the inevitable rise of socialism.

Balloon Magic at Pride
Balloon Magic at Pride

After the opening political groups, the parade gave way to a long procession of random groups (not all of which I could identify) -- and the [evil] corporations that some of the first group so derided. There were a smattering of local politicians (including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom), a couple of marching bands, various groups of cheer leaders, people dressed up in balloons (which completely freaked out the woman right in front of me, who was apparently allergic to latex), people wearing stilts, people wearing random costumes, a guy dressed up as Emperor Norton in a cycle rickshaw, people wearing very little costume, the occasional random naked guy, and a small group of nudists.

Trump dress at Pride
Trump dress at Pride

And then there were the corporate groups, marching with matching t-shirts behind a big banner with their name.

Google at Pride
Google at Pride

I kept a partial list of all of the tech companies I saw at Pride:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon
  • Genentech
  • Apple
  • Gilead
  • Uber
  • Salesforce
  • Facebook
  • Lyft
  • Autodesk
  • Google (with Alphabet companies Waymo and Nest)
  • Airbnb
  • Zillow
  • Intel
  • "Oath: A Verizon company" (which took me a minute to realize that they were what was left of Yahoo!)
  • Wikimedia Foundation
  • Twilio
  • Workday
  • Oracle
  • Zendesk
  • Microsoft (with Linkedin)
  • Twitter
  • Adobe
  • Credit Karma
  • GoPro
  • Cisco
  • eBay
  • Slack
  • PayPal (with Venmo)
  • Weebly
  • Shippo
  • Fluxx
  • Tesla
  • Redfin
  • Dolby
  • Square
  • OpenTable
  • Helix
  • Stitchfix
  • Fitbit
  • Pintrest
  • Leanplum
  • Plaid
  • Cruise (whose self-driving cars I've seen in San Francisco)
Apple at Pride
Apple at Pride

Plenty of non-tech companies were there; here's a very partial list of the ones that stood out to me:

  • PG&E (with a dancing anthropomorphic hard hat mascot)
  • Recology (with dancing anthropomorphic compost and recycle bin mascots)
  • Safeway
  • Disney
  • Gap
  • Pete's Coffee
  • Chipotle
  • REI
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Macy's
  • Visa
  • Cliff (the sports bar company, who came by with samples of their tasty bar packed with nut butter, just as I was thinking about making an exit for a snack)
  • Stanford
  • Berkeley
  • Walmart (advertising for tech jobs in the Bay Area)
  • United Airlines (with an inflated plane suspended above a truck that I spent way too much time trying to identify by type)
PG&E at Pride
PG&E at Pride

There were a bunch of non-profit and religious organizations; here are a few:

  • Planned Parenthood
  • Mormons for Equality

And a handful of government agencies at various levels:

  • San Francisco Public Library
  • BART (complete with their anthropomorphic train carriage that kind of
  • looks like a great-grand-nephew of Thomas the Tank Engine)
  • The National Park Service
  • NASA Ames Research Center
BART mascot at Pride
BART mascot at Pride

As an outside observer, seeing what must have been tens of thousands of people marching down Market Street in support of Pride was inspiring, and made me proud to live in San Francisco (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the part of America that still believes in progress and social change). But I could see how the corporate entries could come off as self-congratulatory, self-promoting, and rainbow-washing. In particular I thought Uber's presence was interesting, given its very public struggles with its own toxic work culture. Twitter, too, has some things to work through; it continues to give the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue a platform to spew his racist phobic filth, denigrating the very people Pride is supposed to support.

Microsoft at Pride
Microsoft at Pride

The parade finally wrapped up a little after 16:00. I stuck it out to the bitter end, because every time I thought about leaving I saw something else interesting. I grabbed a snack at Starbucks and headed home to wrap up my Sunday afternoon, pleased to have been a part of the crowd watching Pride.

I took more pictures at Pride than I included above; you can see them all here.