Good Friday protest at San Francisco’s Mission Dolores fizzles
(Editor’s Note: For background on this story, see “The Catholic Church is still to blame,” in the April 6 edition of CalCatholic.)
Good communication between the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department thwarted plans by a contingent of anti-Catholic protesters to place the ashes of a man who died from AIDS on the steps of Mission Dolores Parish on Good Friday.
The protesters — led by the militant homosexual group ACT UP — had announced they planned to arrive at the church at 5:30 p.m. A half hour before the scheduled arrival of the protesters, there were already at least 15 officers from the SFPD standing in front of the Mission Dolores Basilica and the Old Mission, which is immediately adjacent to the south.
Police installed crowd control barriers in the gutters to prevent protestors from reaching the sidewalk, which made it impossible for the protesters to reach the steps to place the ashes. Instead, they threw the ashes over the crowd control barriers toward the stairs of the Mission Basilica, but San Francisco’s normal late afternoon wind immediately dispersed the ashes in all directions.
At 5:10 p.m. a squad of about eight to 10 police motorcycles appeared on the northbound lane of Dolores Street, and the chants of about 80 anti-Catholics became audible “(bleep) the Church.” The anti-Catholics were led by three or four apparent members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — men in drag dressed in mock nuns’ habits that ridicule Catholic women religious. The group crossed Dolores Street’s grassy median strip, and moved to the southbound lane, in front of the Mission Basilica.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence offered their standard list of grievances against the Church: its opposition to abortion, contraception, and same-sex adoptions, the child sex abuse scandal, and Archbishop George Niederauer’s defense of natural marriage.
George Wesolek, director of Public Policy and spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, was there to observe the event. He told CalCatholic that it was interesting that the anti-Catholics should have chosen the Mission Basilica for this particular display. Wesolek pointed out that, during the trip of Blessed John Paul II to San Francisco in 1987, the pope had visited the Mission Basilica. It was the Mission Basilica where the Holy Father gave his special blessing to 62 people suffering from AIDS. And it was at the Mission Basilica where the Holy Father embraced 4-year-old Brendan O’Rourke, a little boy suffering from the disease. Photographs of the embrace drew worldwide attention.
“At that time many people treated AIDS patients like lepers,” Wesolek noted. “People thought it was something you could catch easily… John Paul’s show of compassion opened up the arms of compassion of the world.” (Brendan passed away on August 17, 1990.)
As they were “eulogizing” the man whose ashes they were scattering, a victim of AIDS, one of the speakers pointed out that the deceased was an “in your face” type. The speaker said that the deceased had attended a San Francisco “Pride Parade” with a sign reading: “I like to (perform oral/anal contact on men).” (The quote was cleaned up for publication.) The crowd laughed at this, apparently unable to see any connection between such behaviors and the man’s untimely death.
By 5:36 p.m. the protest was over. The anti-Catholics marched west on 16th Street, toward the Castro District, chanting “(Bleep) the Church, we don’t need ‘em, all we want is total freedom.”
At 6:30 p.m. both the Old Mission and the Basilica celebrated their regularly scheduled Good Friday liturgies.
Posted Monday, April 09, 2012 12:22 AM By Dan