Unsubstantiated reports of a shooting at San Francisco Pride sent the crowd scattering near Civic Center on Sunday evening.
Officers stationed near Civic Center responded to the reported shooting near Seventh and Market streets shortly before 5:30 p.m., but they did not locate any witnesses, victims or suspects, according to police.
SF Pride later said that what panicked the crowd was a person spraying mace near the Kaiser Permanente Main Stage, which was being hosted by Sister Roma and Honey Mahogany, who is running for District 6 Supervisor. A performance by singer Martha Wash was cut short due to the incident.
“It’s important we let people know that as announced from the stage at the time, it was a person spraying mace into the crowd,” SF Pride’s statement said. “Although no one was harmed, it was not a pleasant experience. We decided to cut the performance short in the interest of safety.”
According to SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie, police were informed of a “large physical fight” at approximately 5 p.m. near Polk and Grove streets.
At around 5:30 p.m., a reporter for The Standard witnessed people running in all directions from City Hall. Music for the event was cut and police arrived on the scene. People were heading away from City Hall on Market Street toward the Embarcadero.
Elaina Zapata, 21, told The Standard she was eating at Shovels Bar and Grill on Larkin Street around 5:30 p.m. when she saw a large group of Pride participants walking past the bar and then “a frantic switch from walking to running.”
At that point, a frightened passerby came into the restaurant, reporting that there was an active shooter in the area. The restaurant closed its windows and doors, turned off its music, and had everyone move to the back and hide, according to Zapata. Eventually, news spread within the bar that the reports were unsubstantiated. Zapata had come into San Francisco from Stockton with her boyfriend for the Pride celebration.
Also around 5:30 p.m., Simon Luu, 23, of the Richmond District told The Standard he was walking down Market Street when he saw a large crowd of people running. Luu and his friends ran as well.
“I think we all assumed it was an active shooter because of how this country is,” said Luu. “It was a really scary experience. A lot of us have this idea that any crowded place that we go to will be shot up, and it’s just insane that we have to live in this world where we always have to be scared and vigilant wherever we are.”
Tensions were high ahead of Sunday’s event. Earlier this month, members of the far-right Proud Boys group crashed a “Drag Queen Story Hour” event at a library in San Lorenzo. On Saturday, a gunman killed two people and injured more than 20 ahead of the Pride parade in Oslo, Norway.
Garrett Leahy contributed additional reporting.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Sister Roma and Honey Mahogany were hosting the event’s main stage.