Calif. FFs, police help raise Pride flag at city hall, a first for the city

Following heated political debate, hundreds of people gathered at Fresno City Hall to see the raising of the Rainbow Pride flag supporting the LGBTQ+ community


Brianna Calix
The Fresno Bee

FRESNO, Calif. — For the first time in Fresno's history, the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Pride flag was raised Friday at Fresno City Hall.

"Our city leaders are sending a very clear message, and that message is to our LGBTQ community: 'We see you, and regardless of who you are or who you love, you are the fabric of our community and our city. We support you,'" said Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis, who said she is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Donis, the city's first woman fire chief, said the flag raising ceremony gave her hope.

After highly contentious political debate over the last couple weeks, hundreds of people from all over the San Joaquin Valley gathered at Fresno City Hall to celebrate Pride month and watch the historic flag raising. Upbeat music played, snacks were served and a rainbow balloon arch stood behind the speakers. City staffers passed out rainbow face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and a young boy named Ethan who attended with his family passed out rainbow heart-shaped stickers.

Many of Fresno's federal, state and local elected officials also attended along with local faith leaders, educators and advocates. Fresno police officers and Fresno firefighters also were on hand to assist.

The event was spearheaded and emceed by Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, who began her remarks by telling the crowd "a little secret."

"The flag raising was always going to happen," she said to cheers.

"Today marks a new and important chapter in the city of Fresno as we demonstrate our commitment to equality and justice for all, and that includes our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters," Soria said. "The Pride flag is a symbol of hope and inclusion for the LGBTQ community. It represents people in our community that, while they have been rejected and marginalized, they have been resilient in the fight for equality, only seeking visibility and affirmation of self worth and dignity — some things that many of us may take for granted.

"Today, we send a message to all residents that we love you, regardless of who you are, where you come from, the color of your skin, and who you love," she said.

Siblings Naomi and Kaitlyn Gerner, 11 and 13, attended the ceremony and said they were excited to see the flag raised. Naomi wore the pansexual flag, or "my flag," as she called it, draped over her shoulders.

"It means that love is love, and love is for everyone," Kaitlyn said about the ceremony.

Geni Perryment, Victoria Williams and JJ Tin, all clinical psychologists, said they attended the ceremony to show support for their LGBTQ+ clients and community.

" Fresno is finally showing progress, and we wanted to be a part of it," Perryment said.

During the ceremony, the Fresno City Council presented the city's first awards to three people, named after Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in California. The recipients were: Jeffery Robinson, CEO of Community Link and Fresno Rainbow Pride; Jewel Hurtado, Kingsburg City Councilmember; and Zoyer Zyndel, former Trans-E-Motion leader who died in December.

The current chair of Trans-E-Motion, Zayn Anthony, said that while the fight for equality continues, the LGBTQ+ community should celebrate its progress.

While Mayor Jerry Dyer did not speak at the event, he did attend. Anthony and other speakers commended the mayor for his change of heart on the flag raising.

"After attending the Fresno State Pride (flag) raising ceremony, I got a chance to hear what Mayor Jerry Dyer said," Anthony said. "Thank you so much for opening up your mind and your heart to our community. We're happy to have you as a strong ally, a strong leader, showing leadership and doing what's right. So, thank you."

Civil rights leader Dolores Huerta said the flag raising ceremony in Fresno has greater meaning.

"This flag that has been raised today in Fresno, in the center of the San Joaquin Valley, this is not just for Fresno alone. This is for the whole San Joaquin Valley," she said, before signing off with her traditional "Si se puede!"

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(c)2021 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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