What was supposed to be a weekend of revelry and excitement for two friends in town for San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair turned ugly Saturday night when five assailants attacked the men with pepper spray for no apparent reason other than they are gay.
The violence was particularly shocking for Neil Frias and Jeff White, both 28, because they were assaulted in a city lauded for its progressive values and broad acceptance of the LGBT community.
“I’m trying to make sense of it,” Frias, who works as a publicist in Manhattan, said Sunday. “I would think what happened last night would happen somewhere else, not here.”
The friends were visiting from New York for the weekend festivities surrounding Sunday’s Folsom Street Fair, a world-famous leather-themed street party in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood packed by fetishists celebrating the city’s kinky subculture.
Frias and White said they were attacked at about 9 p.m. outside a McDonald’s at Golden Gate Avenue and Fillmore Street in the city’s Western Addition. As Frias left the fast-food restaurant, he said five men pulled up in a blue minivan. “They were saying, ‘You fags are destroying family values,’” Frias said. “I said I didn’t want any trouble, and one of them got out of the van. I thought he was going to take a swing at me, but he sprayed me across the face.”
Frias said he was hit with the unmistakable “searing sting” from the pepper spray as a second man came at him with another can of the aerosolized weapon. A third assailant, he said, attacked White, who crawled into a ball to protect his face from the painful blast. “I was completely vulnerable,” he said. “I thought they were going to start beating me.”
A nearby woman shouted that she was calling the police, prompting the mob to jump back into the minivan and speed away. Police and paramedics responded to the attack, and the two victims returned to their Union Square hotel.