How Two Burning Man Contingents Accidentally Set Off This Weekend’s Big Ocean Beach Party
There was a lot of fact and fiction flying around this weekend over an alleged “1,000-person gathering to celebrate Burning Man” at Ocean Beach Saturday night that shamed Burners in the national news and drew a stern Sunday morning rebuke from Mayor London Breed. SFGate described it as “A crowd of over a thousand people,” at a time when outdoor gatherings of more than 12 people are currently forbidden. But the SF Examiner actually spoke to someone who was there who said that it was “maybe 100” people “most people [were] pretty distanced from each other, and it wasn’t that many people by the end of the night.”
Yet both of these contradictory-sounding versions of events appear to be true. There were clearly more than 1,000 people at Ocean Beach Saturday night, but many just small groups of properly distanced people with their lit-up bikes, blinky costumes, and perhaps their own little man to burn. (Bonfires at the beach are currently prohibited under Spare the Air orders.)
This is what SF’s Ocean Beach looked like last night. Those are bonfires you’re looking at. Bonfires are not permitted on Spare the Air days but that didn’t stop people from setting them. It appeared that many of these folks were celebrating Burning Man. @abc7newsbayarea pic.twitter.com/u41dqEhtM4
— J.R. Stone (@jrstonelive) September 7, 2020
But two organized Burner contingents — both of whom have now deleted their public social media presence — contributed a “magnet” effect that did draw clearly more than 100 people into a very much not-socially-distanced gathering. Here’s what we know about them.
Outdoor gatherings of more than 12 people are forbidden under current restrictions. So the question remains: Why didn’t anybody turn the music off once the party got really big?https://t.co/3Ez9zzRVpS
— 48 Hills (@48hills) September 8, 2020
THE BURNING MAN SOUND CAMP
48 Hills broke the news Monday that a Burning Man art car/sound camp group called the Big-Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep (BAAAHS) set up camp near the beach and drew a larger crowd than anticipated. While they were “not the only sound system on the beach that night,” according to that report, their party did turn into “a gathering of several hundred.”
party tonight ocean beach pic.twitter.com/hCygLsFvrV
— joe cool🏁 (@joe_m26) September 6, 2020
48 Hills spoke to a BAAAHS organizer, who said that “A number of different burner events were happening on Ocean Beach on Saturday night. These events, combined with increased foot traffic because weather was so nice, caused the crowd to grow significantly as the night went on. The large crowd influx on Saturday night at the mile-long stretch of beach was both spontaneous and organic, and not centered on the lot where the bus was parked.”
A BAAAHS private admin group is still up on Facebook, but that group has no public posts and says it is “is primarily for crew and volunteer communication. Our public fan page is here,” but that page is clearly now deactivated.
THE ‘BURNER BIKE TAKEOVER’
Another Saturday night event was posted to Facebook called “Golden Gate Park Burner Bike Takeover: Masks Required.” That event has been removed from Facebook, though the invite still exists on third party sites. Funcheap reported on Saturday that “this event is unpermitted and is unlikely to take place,” but clearly a large LED-decorated bike contingent did still gather and bike to the beach. Depending on you and you and friends’ settings, you make see some SF shots showing that a group of Burner bikers did trek out and add to the crowd size.
Mini Burning Man party at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach yesterday (everyone in my group of 20ish have tested negative for covid in the last week… can’t speak for the other several thousand people there) pic.twitter.com/TNadQFLsWU
— Loren Punishments (@PunishmentsOnly) September 6, 2020
It is perfectly fine to have a small, distanced gathering at Ocean Beach. But as we see several times in the video below (particularly at the :12 and :34 mark) the mask-wearing and social distancing did kind of go out the window here. The lesson is that even if your gathering starts with good intentions and proper protocols, things can quickly get out of hand, and your group might burn a lot of goodwill.
SF Mayor London Breed is calling out revelers who staged a Saturday night, unsanctioned, “Burning Man” inspired party on Ocean Beach.
She’s warning anyone who plans to show up for a second one tonight that law enforcement will be patrolling the beaches. pic.twitter.com/ktoLlOQNon
— Sergio Quintana (@svqjournalist) September 7, 2020