Castro Street Pride flag remains at full-mast after Orlando attacks

SAN FRANCISCO – The Pride flag standing vigilant over the entrance to one of the most recognized LGBT neighborhoods in the world is flying full-mast in San Francisco, despite other cities flying theirs at half-mast.

President Obama ordered that all U.S. flags on federal property to be flown at half-mast until Thursday in honor of the victims of the Orlando massacre.

Although the Pride flag doesn’t need to follow this protocol, it is out of respect for those in the community that many LGBT neighborhoods mirror the president’s orders when it comes to the LGBT rainbow banner.

The decision to fly the Pride flag at full-mast in the Castro was implemented five years ago by members of the Castro Merchants, and has been strictly followed ever since, with no exceptions even in respect to the recent tragedy in Orlando.

The guidelines for the policy are set by the large merchant’s organization, and their President Daniel Bergerac. Bergerac says he is not insensitive to the pain and resilience of the LGBT community being gay himself, but he has to follow what his board has voted on.

“Unfortunately I have 300 members of which I am trying to appease and they all have varying opinions of it and the decision and vote that was made by the membership is what I have to respect.”

But last Sunday, before the city’s vigil honoring the victims of the Orlando attacks, Bergerac broke protocol and bought a smaller flag and flew that at half-mast. Once the vigil was over the larger banner was put back in place and once again flown at full-mast.

It was a bold move, and one the community applauded.

“My decision on Sunday to replace the flag with the smaller one and fly it half-staff was my decision to beg for forgiveness, rather than ask for permission by my membership who have voted completely against doing what I did,” he said.

One of the problems is that the 30-foot banner is so large that flying it mid-pole would interfere with cables and powerlines.

We asked Bergerac if it were possible to fly a smaller one at half-mast until Thursday, or on special occasions, but again it is not the agreed upon protocol, and he emphasizes there are no exceptions.

“In my mind it is unfortunate that the organization was put through such an emotional, heated, debate over this, and it is unfortunate that – the whole situation is very unfortunate,” he said.

San Diego follows the presidential orders of the U.S. flag when it comes to raising or lowering the Pride flag in Hillcrest.

Executive Director of the Hillcrest Business Association, Benjamin Nicholls tells us that although there is an agreed upon policy for the San Diego flag, he is open for discussions about its positioning if community members think there is a need.

For now, the Castro district, one of the most celebrated LGBT neighborhoods in the world will have to keep thier Pride flag at full-staff even in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, a situation Bergerac says he may not agree with, but must abide by. 

“Our membership after much debate, months and months and months of debate, voted unanimously that the Pride flag in Harvey Milk Plaza would fly as the artist intended 365 days a year at full staff,” he said. “That was the decision of our membership.”

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