Scott Presler speaks in front of the Women's Building.

Several dozen Donald Trump supporters rallied in front of the Women’s Building on 18th Street Saturday night — causing a tense and bizarre scene to unfold in the heart of one of San Francisco’s most progressive neighborhoods.

“I want everyone to know that we are going to come out as a fierce, ferocious force in 2020 and re-elect Donald Trump!” screamed Scott Presler, an organizer with #WalkAway, a group aimed at steering the LGBTQ community toward Trumpism and the Republican Party. 

Many of his supporters followed by chanting: “USA! USA! USA!” as counter-protesters chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” Often, demonstrators from both sides got in each other’s faces, sometimes shoving each other — though no physical fights broke out. Police stood by and, at times, had to separate people. 

Presler and his group organized the demonstration in response to the Women’s Building apparently canceling a “town hall” the group scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium. Representatives from the Women’s Building have not yet returned our inquiries, and it’s unclear if the nonprofit was aware it had scheduled a pro-Trump event.  

Presler drew attention earlier in the day when he and others walked around the Tenderloin, filming trash, needles, and feces — and asking homeless people whether the government should prioritize their needs over immigrants. The Women’s Building appeared to have canceled the event shortly after the images and interviews hit social media. 

“It’s scary how common it’s becoming,” said Paul Boden, a homeless advocate with the Western Regional Advocacy Project, when asked about the pro-Trump demonstrators’ message. 

“This election is going to be like this,” Boden added, gesturing toward the chaos and shouting from demonstrators and counter-protesters at the building. “This isn’t going to be intellectual nor political. They feel they’re losing and they’re going on the attack — and they’ve been on the attack for a while.” 

Mission Local asked some of the pro-Trump #WalkAway demonstrators why they were spending their Saturday night in the Mission. Some wore “Make America Great Again” hats — and one person showed up in “MAGA” drag. 

“Lady MAGA” said she comes from Salt Lake City. Photo by Julian Mark.

“Every month, Democrats want something new to be outraged about,” said 32-year-old Max Guglielmelli. “They want to say ‘Haiti is a shithole — that’s racist.’ ‘They want to say Baltimore is a shithole — that’s racist.’ Everything is racist. They call me a racist.” 

Gugliemelli said he’s gay, an army veteran, and from Milpitas. 

“I believe that here, tonight, we are turning up the love in our own way,” said Ricky Rebel, a “30-something” from Los Angeles. “What we’re saying is that, being LGBT, you don’t have to vote a certain way; you don’t have to think a certain way — you’re free. You’re American, you’re free … and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”  

By contrast, counter-protesters thought the message was insidious. 

“For this right-wing contingent to come to the Women’s Building is just an offense to the progressive community of San Francisco,” said Jennifer Beach, who got into several shouting matches with the MAGA demonstrators. “And for all the queer radical activists who have been here for decades, we have to stand with the Women’s Building — because this is our base.”  

Adrienne Fong also felt it was important to counter-protest. “If we don’t stand up to this, it’s going to go on. There’s going to be more hatred.”  

Update Monday, Feb. 3: 

Statement from Teresa Mejia, executive director of the Women’s Building: “In January we received a request from a group to use one of our spaces for a meeting on February 1st. We learned that the group had not been fully candid about themselves and their intentions. On February 1st we also learned more about the group’s intentions in SF and that they did not comport with our rules for using our space. It is our belief that they intended to violate our proposed contract terms and that their values and statements would have seriously compromised our own reputation as a
safe place for our community and the people we serve.

The Women’s Building deeply thanks our community who has reached out to inform us and support us through this decision.”

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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21 Comments

  1. Anyone think ignoring these people is a better stategy?
    Surely all of it was recorded on video and will be used to denigrate the anti-fascist folks.

    1. Yes, I thought that. Maybe randomly, I saw about this and the many online bots.. I did pass by.

      But yes I thought that responding to them, was very much equal to feeding trolls in an online discussion.

    2. What these people want are counter protests. They want footage of people screaming at them. Ignore them and they’ll disappear.

  2. Weird how you left out that 150 volunteers with this dude were cleaning up the trash they were recording.
    I don’t like Trump but having anti fascists protesting ppl cleaning up syringes and trash makes the anti fascists look bad not the ppl cleaning up garbage.
    I wish more ppl in my neighborhood would get together and clean the area up, the city sure isn’t doing it.

    That said them pitting the homeless against undocumented immigrants is gross. But it may be effective with some voters, ppl just see cities proclaiming to be sanctuaries and offering legal aid, but they may not see the help going to the homeless, so it looks like pols are prioritizing undocumented immigrants over American citizens who are living on the street.
    Gross idea
    But probably effective
    The left needs better arguments or at least show that we are helping all ppl.
    Also a pro left garbage cleanup and voter signup could be effective means of recruiting.

    1. Let us know when you’ve organized said garbage control/voter reg. That would be a great counter measure against the right wing trolls that Mission Local would be sure to cover.
      Also: the optics of picking up garbage are not powerful enough to obscure their incipient fascism. Asking the homeless population to join them in their hate and spite is the reason they descended on this city. It’s an old tactic called divide and conquer.

    2. I was one of the people at the trash pick up and it as very sad that we had protesters. we spent 5 hours cleaning the streets and when we get back from both trips, people we saying hateful words.
      we asked the protesters if they wanted to help and they did not help at all.

      We should all be able to think for ourselves. Ricky rebel said he was accepted in the LGBT until he said he supported the president. thats when he had the attacks even worse.
      someones polical views should not make someone have so much hate. its so sad.

    3. They were not protesting the clean up of trash. The clean up was hours earlier. They showed up purposefully in a progressive area at night, just to agitate.

  3. These antis feed on attention. Ignore it and it will go away.

    How many people will be swayed by this? “Being LGBT, you don’t have to vote a certain way; you don’t have to think a certain way — you’re free.”

  4. Pretty sure he is barking up wrong tree here. Asking Women’s Building admin to really care about the plight of his political issues. Yah ok. This is a place for struggling mothers, rape victims, and women getting harassed out of their jobs. Not an angry man’s playground. The rest of the world is designed for you buddy…but guess he’s the type to go meddle in business where he don’t belong. Provacateurs ???

  5. As a note – Scott Pressler did not walk around filming trash, needles and feces. He and the other volunteers were picking up trash and talking with people. There is video of Scott talking with the homeless and it is really a very nice conversation of both sides. Please make sure that you report what actually happened.

    1. As if the very act of picking up trash and talking to good citizens of the TL means much.
      It doesn’t. The priests and laity of St.Boniface and Glide and a number of other neighborhood groups do this all the time without targeting people, which (by the way) is what they were doing.

    2. Homeless? That video is of a man wearing two gold chains. If he wanted to record homeless people, hang out in the lobby of the women’s building.

  6. oh my other comment is being moderated, so i know it wont show up because sites like this cant face to truth.

  7. There were many LGBT people in the rally and the Women’s Building’s reason for cancelling was because the group was allegedly disparaging the homeless community though they had also helped clean the streets earlier in the day. Want more feces and needles on your streets along with higher taxes? Keep voting blue. Can’t handle a few hundred protesters who have a different point of view so you cancel their venue contracts and call them fascists? Get ready for 4 more years of Trump if you can’t have a thoughtful, adult conversation with people right of progressive.

  8. I was at the ‘clean up’ not 150 people. Lies. They also stated that 100 people showed up at their ‘protest’ also lies. They inflate numbers to push forward their own agenda. Sound familiar?

  9. Thanks ,Fair intelligent reporting. The socialist democrats do not represent our East Bay LBGT community. Democrats can not control us or silence our voices. I am just one of hundreds of frienfs who is pro Trump. We also have the right to demonstrate
    Best regards, Ann Montgomery

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