In the year leading up to the 1987 Pride weekend, Lambda Pride meetings were heavily occupied with issues including lawsuits, debts and organizational upheaval. As a result, a “New Lambda Pride” was formed with the goal of producing an excellent event and paying off the debts of the previous year. The new board selected “Making History” as the theme, which proved to be a well-suited sentiment for the year. Community members and businesses donated $10,000 towards the festivities. Nicole Ramirez Murray donated $2,500 amassed from various fundraising events and Chris Shaw, owner of West Coast Production Company, pledged 10% of the weekend’s earnings to Lambda Pride. But just days before Pride, Officer Raymond Shay filed a $500,000 personal injury suit against Lambda Pride for being bitten by Brian Barlow the previous year. Ultimately, Barlow would be acquitted, but this ordeal dragged on for over a year, causing strain to the organization.
The continued devastation brought on by AIDS in the gay community would define 1987 Pride weekend. In this year’s Pride guidebook, President Tony Zampella Jr. wrote in his address “In these trying times of AIDS, discrimination and homophobia, in which the very survival of our community sometimes seems threatened, it’s more important than ever that we flock to the streets and express our continued and renewed pride in who and what we are.” Local activists Chris Kehoe and Craig Morgan were selected as Grand Marshals for their AIDS-related community work. Kehoe was a crucial figure in defeating the LaRouche Initiative from the previous year and Morgan was active in community fundraising efforts.
Saturday, June 13th, marked the start of the two-day festival and featured the Front Runners Pride Run, parade, and rally. The parade began at noon from Balboa Drive at Quince Drive and looped back to Balboa Park. The fundies protested once again and flew a banner over the parade proclaiming “Homos deserved AIDS says Owens’ church.” One fundamentalist protester was arrested for spitting on marchers. Following through on a campaign promise, Mayor Maureen O’Connor participated in the parade with the San Diego AIDS Project, becoming “the first elected head of a major U.S. city to walk in sympathy with homosexuals.”
The rally followed at Marston Point in Balboa Park, where attendees found 289 styrofoam crosses draped in black ribbons and lavender orchids – a cross for every AIDS-related death in San Diego. Speakers included activists Gloria Johnson and Nicole Ramirez Murray, who spoke to a crowd of 8,000 on the AIDS crisis. Ramirez Murray encouraged the community to “get angry at the President, who took six years to even say the word AIDS… [and] to ‘get angry at the governor, who vetoed $20 million in AIDS spending.” Thousands of people then marched from Marston Point towards downtown to place the crosses on the steps of City Hall. Rick Anderson, a community member living with AIDS and involved with the Regional Task Force on AIDS slipped a list of demands under the door of City Hall, calling for funding and anti-discrimination ordinances. During the previous week, San Diego City Council had approved $150,000 to go towards local AIDS-related organizations, which was seen as a good start but not nearly enough. In December, San Diego philanthropist Joan Kroc would make $25,000 donations to both San Diego AIDS Project and the AIDS Assistance Fund of San Diego. In March, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was formed in New York City; San Diego activist Albert Bell formed a San Diego chapter later that year.