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Annual Tree-lighting Ceremony Sees Protesters

Photo: Maya Lekach

On November 26th, at 6 p.m., Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Scott Wiener, City Treasurer Jose Cisneros, District Attorney George Gascon, as well as Santa and his elf were all present to watch the lights on the Christmas tree at 18th and Castro streets light up after a spirited countdown. However, this year’s event wouldn’t be as mild and predictable as those in the past several years.

This jovial festivity was attended not only by city and North Pole officials, but also a number of local families and friends. The SF Gay Men’s Chorus, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and a local band playing holiday favorites like ‘Little Drummer Boy’ kept the holiday spirits high.

For all the holiday cheer, the main message of the city officials and the event’s fliers was to “Shop, Eat, and Drink” in the Castro. These holiday tree lightings, of which Castro’s is one of the first in the city, are being utilized as stimulation of local neighborhood economies for the holiday season.

But the festivities were not all mulled wine and roses. In addition to city officials and children licking their candy canes from red and white stripes into pink sticky messes, there were also two groups of protesters.

The first: a group of anti-capitalists, fighting against the consumerism, not necessarily only of the Castro, but of the holiday season in general. In a city such as San Francisco, it wouldn’t really be a holiday, let alone a day at all, if there were not girls with buzz cuts railing against the economic system of the nation. So despite the protests, to them we are grateful for keeping our city the controversy-attracting and status-quo-debating town we all know and love.

The second group of protesters was the one that stole the show, both from the anti-capitalists, the city officials, and even Santa himself. Led by George Davis, a member and organizer of the nudist protesters who was giving a rare clothed appearance due to the cold, the group held signs comparing Scott Wiener to Dan White, Harvey Milk’s assassin, and took much of the limelight away from the tree.

According to Steve Adams, a neighborhood resident who has been attending the tree lighting for many years, “Although the protesters had a right to free speech, they were ruining the neighborhood family event.”

Ruining might be a bit of a strong word. Still, many families were there to take pictures with Santa and his elf named Seth sing the usual Christmas jingles, and bring in the holidays right.

The celebration enjoyed a lot of foot traffic, with many parents and children coming straight from the MUNI to the front of the tree.

Castro mother Anca Tse was happy to take photos of her young son on their way home for dinner. However, this Romanian transplant believed it to be “too early and too warm for Christmas festivities.” Apparently, in Romania the holidays don’t start until around the 20th of December. Then again, they’ve got snow. But who’s complaining?

The Castro Street tree will be on display until Christmas at 18th and Castro by the Bank of America. Come bring your children for photos and memories.