Hundreds of LGBT Latinos and their supporters marched from the Castro to the Mission Saturday, shrouded in grief for the 49 lives lost in the mass shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub and vowing to show love for each other in the face of hate.
Forty-nine of the marchers were asked to carry signs bearing the names of Pulse nightclub victims.
David A. Diaz, 50, a gay man who lives near the Castro, carried a sign that bore the name of 22-year-old Peter Gonzalez. Diaz drew a red heart underneath Gonzalez’s name.
Most of the people killed June 12 at Pulse were gay Latino men. Another 53 people were injured in what’s being called the worst mass shooting in the U.S.
“As a gay man and as a Cuban-American I strongly identify with the victims of this tragedy,” Diaz told the Bay Area Reporter as he marched. “When my family escaped Cuba they started their journey in the U.S. in Florida, so if they’d made a different decision I might have grown up in Florida, and I might have been one of those people. It’s important to me that their identity as Latinos isn’t erased.”
The June 18 march was coordinated by a number of Latino LGBT organizations, with assistance from longtime gay activist Cleve Jones, who helped to get the word out and organized the march’s Castro District commencement. Jones and queer housing activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca were among those who led the hundreds of marchers as they made their way past the Castro Theatre.
The march turned left onto 18th Street, continued to Mission Street, then turned right, where attendees walked through the heart of the primarily Latino Mission district.
It continued to 24th and Bryant streets, where a memorial service honoring the dead was held in front of Galeria De La Raza, an art gallery and artist collective that serves the local Latino community.
Ani Rivera, left, executive director of Galeria de la Raza, and Lito Sandoval, president of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, spoke to the crowd at the Mission rally. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
“For decades we’ve asked people to meet in the Castro to mourn our losses and celebrate our victories,” Jones told the B.A.R. as the march was getting underway. “Today we’re marching to the Mission to show our solidarity with a community deep in grief. We’re here to support what the Latino LGBT community is organizing.”
As the march made its way through the adjoining neighborhoods, many passersby applauded. People stood in the windows of their homes waving rainbow flags.
by David-Elijah Nahmod for the BAR