Hamilton Square Baptist Church Riot
The documentary film A Nation Adrift chronicles some of the events that took place during the Hamilton Square Baptist Church riot in San Francisco on the date of September 19, 1993 in which an angry group of male homosexuals and lesbians vandalized church property, assaulted church members, terrorized church congregants, screamed profanity, threw rocks, harassed and scared children, and disrupted a church service. During the riot the rioters pounded on the church doors and attempted to kick them down. When the rioters saw church children standing in the lobby, they shouted "We want your children. Give us your children."  During the riot an eight year old mentally handicapped girl was verbally accosted when exiting through the front entrance of the church and was so traumatized that she fell down the church steps. In addition, a nine-year-old boy, was hysterically crying and said "They are after me. It's me they want." The nine-year-old boy did not calm down until the family was several miles from the building.
According to Pastor David Innes, Senior Pastor of Hamilton Square Baptist church, the protesters denied people entrance to the church and in some cases did it by physical contact.
When people entered the church demonstrators gave out phony flyers said to be church flyers. In addition, the phony flyers were also put on automobile windshields in the surrounding area. By 6:00 PM that evening a riotous conditions were under way and the rioters had control of the outside church property. The church asked the officer in charge several times to remove the protesters but the officer stated that things were completely under control and that police regulations and procedures prevented him from removing the rioters.
Near the start of the church service an usher who placed himself to assist members to enter the church. The church usher saw church property being destroyed and told an officer who turned away and ignored him. The rioters recognized the usher as a member of the church and surrounded him so he could not move.
Below is a news release which describes the rioters denying people access to the church:
|“|| Pastor Charles and Donna McIlhenny were refused entry by the rioters, and told they could not enter the building. The doors were completely blocked by the rioters. Pastor McIlhenny held on to Donna as they began to make their way through the mob who were shouting and screaming in their ears, "You will not enter this church." The rioters assaulted them, pushing and shoving them, seeking to keep them from the front door. One of them grabbed Donna's body, lifting her off the ground, and attempted to pull her back away from the entry. She stretched her arms out for help from a near by police officer who offered no assistance. Her son, seeing she was in trouble, pleaded with the officers to assist her. The officers appeared so overwhelmed by the rioters that they were unable to take control of the situation. Both of her hands were scratched (the skin was broken).
Finally, the church's caretaker grabbed her outstretched arms and pulled her through to the door, out of the hands of the rioters. As they made their way past the three police officers at the door, they were pelted by rocks, which also struck the window panes of the entry doors. Several members from Pastor McIlhenny's church also were accosted and had to flee to a side entrance. There they also found the entry blocked and had to remain outside until the riot police arrived and let them in the building. Pastor McIlhenny's son, Ryan and his friend were not able to enter the building.
The news release also describes the following:
A mother and her six-year-old daughter were told they could not enter the building. A rioter grabbed the six year old's arm while she was clinging to her mother and the rioter began interrogating the six-year-old girl. The mother and daughter finally gained entry into the church by passing through the rioters. The child was terrified and began crying. The mother also had invited an elderly friend to the church who was refused entry by the group of rioters. Twenty minutes passed by before the mother was able to get her elderly friend into the church service. Many other elderly and children were terrorized by the rioters. One couple who regularly attended the church were hindered from entering the church by the rioters who had been moved to the sidewalk. When the woman of the couple entered the church she was so distressed that one of our other ladies at the church had to help her calm down. Another member stood across the street from the church and did not enter the church because of fear of being subject to physical violence.
Some of the details of the September 19, 1993 event are disputed. Noah Griffin, a spokesperson for the San Francisco mayor's office, stated that "No police officer in San Francisco would stand by while someone trying to enter a church is assaulted."  However, Pastor Innes told Christianity Today that "We stand by everything in the news release. We put nothing in it that cannot be verified with video, eyewitnesses, and pictures."  In addition, the following was reported in the October 28, 1993 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle:
|“||Although the two-hour protest received scant attention locally, Innis buttressed his campaign and the police investigation with videotape shot by a member of his congregation. The tape shows demonstrators jostling members entering the church, engaging in a brief shoving match with outnumbered police officers and trying to kick open a side door.||”|
San Francisco Police Captain Rich Cairnes stated said he was dismayed when he saw the videotape and stated the following:
|“||It sort of amazed me watching the film that it got to that level," Cairnes said. "I was upset that it did get that far . . . that the rights of people going to church should be attacked. That's one of our basic freedoms in this country. And it's something that just won't be tolerated again.||”|
The church believes that the police department acted poorly during the riot. According to the church, "In spite of all this malicious disruption, not a single arrest was made by police outside of one citizen's arrest. The church's property was not secured, and the fundamental rights of the worshippers were not protected because, we were told, "The Board of Supervisors would never support the measures necessary to do so."" 
The day of the riot was the day Reverend Louis Sheldon, of the Traditional Values Coalition, was a guest speaker. Only the church's membership and regular attenders were notified of the service, through the church's bulletin. No public notice or invitation was made in regards to the guest speaker. However, the September 16, 1993 edition of the Bay Area Reporter, the meeting was made public in a front page article using inflammatory language. In addition, two homosexual newspapers called for a protest. The church received telephone calls prior to the Reverend Sheldon's arrival demanding that he should not come and threatening to disrupt the service.  In addition, two people visited the church and told a church employee that the church could not have Reverend Sheldon as a guest speaker at the church and that they were going to stop it from happening.
Pastor Innes told Christianity Today that he does not blame the San Francisco police but those in political power especially the board of supervisors. Innes stated, "You really can't compare San Francisco with any other city. Homosexual advocates infiltrate and dominate the political structures here. Police are in straitjackets. They can't do their job. They've been instructed not to arrest homosexuals." Griffin responded by saying that "The gist of the phone calls we've been receiving is that police do not do anything because of the gay voting bloc in this city. That simply is not true."  Pastor Innes countered though by citing a letter written by a 25-year veteran of the San Francisco police force which was published in a September 30, 1993 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. In police officers letter, the officer describes a recent assignment regarding keeping things under control at the San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair. According to the letter the officer described, the fair included food and craft booths, but "appeared to have as its main theme a public display of the private sexual practices and preferences of consenting adults."  The officer described seeing totally naked male couples publicly engaging in lewd sex. The officer in his letter stated that he was "highly embarrassed" when people asked him he was not making any arrests. The officer stated that "At least a dozen times I had to painstakingly explain that we were to take a position of 'high tolerance' and not to create an incident." 
Christianity Today also reported the following regarding the incident:
|“||Although Sheldon has had his home painted with graffiti and his office littered with manure by radical homosexuals, this is the first time he was targeted at a church. According to Peter LaBarbera, editor of the Lambda Report, a California-based newsletter that monitors the homosexual movement, the incident represents a trend toward increased militancy among homosexual activists.||”|
Peter LaBarbera adds: "It's ironic that gay activist leaders claim they want more tolerance when, in fact, they are among the most intolerant people this country's got going." LaBarbera further states that the church protest is "an immensely important event because it signals the intolerance they have for people's religious views." 
Police Inspector Robert O'Sullivan called the riot the worst San Francisco church protest since 1983, when arsonists burned the First Orthodox Presbyterian Church where the minister had preached against homosexuality.
A October 28, 1993 San Francisco Chronicle article titled, "S.F. Police to Seek Charges in Sept. 19 Church Protest by Gays" states the following regarding Police Inspector Robert O'Sullivan:
|“||O'Sullivan said police have forwarded a criminal complaint from the latest protest to the district attorney's office and focused their investigation on "three or four" of the organizers of the demonstration. The protesters, he said, could be charged with trespassing, vandalism and disrupting a religious service.||”|
Post Riot Public and Press Reaction
After the riot, there was a local news blackout regarding the riot among the local press according to David C. Innes who is the senior pastor of Hamilton Square Baptist Church. However, news of the attack on Hamilton Square Baptist Church spread fast across Christian radio and television and an audio tape of the rioters seeking to break down the church doors was played in thousands of churches.  Thousands of calls came pouring into the offices of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors and coverage by the Christian Broadcast Network broadcast were major factors in ending the local news blackout concerning the riot. Also, according to the church, "Concerned citizens from all across America flooded the telephone switchboards of City Hall, but their phone calls were diverted to the City Sewage Treatment department." In addition, according to Pastor Innes, "Foreign embassies were notified of the incident. What began as an attack upon a church under cover of a news blackout became a "shot heard around the world"."
An executive from a large multinational corporation called the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau and informed the bureau that the corporation he represents made a decision not to bring conventions utilizing 30,000 hotel rooms to the city because of the city's failure to protect the Hamilton Square Baptist Church. In addition, after the riot Christian groups threatened to boycott San Francisco. A November 11, 1993 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle stated the following: "The demonstrators at Hamilton Square Baptist Church endangered not only their own cause but the cause of freedom itself."
Three days after the riot, Mayor Frank Jordan, the Chief of Police, and a representative from the District Attorney's office assured the church that an another event like the riot would not be permitted. However, according to Pastor Innes, "Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors with one or two exceptions has to this day stonewalled, denying that anything illegal or inappropriate had ever happened."  Thus, according to Pastor Innes, "To protest the Board of Supervisors denial of any wrongdoing as well as their approval and blessing upon those who rioted against the Church, a Freedom Rally was held on Monday, November 8."  The Freedom Rally brought 400 plus pastors and laymen from across the United States and represented over sixty thousand churches. According to Pastor Innes police protection was superb during the Freedom Rally. The major newspapers and news networks covered the Freedom Rally and according to Pastor Innes most of the coverage was favorable.
Below is a Hamilton Square Baptist Church members description of the Freedom Rally:
|“||We planned a “Pastor’s Freedom Rally” for early November, and invited hundreds of Christian leaders to come to our city and take a stand for righteousness. This church hosted approximately 400 pastors and Christian leaders, who joined us to hold high the cause of Christ, and make a statement to the City of San Francisco, that truth, freedom to worship, and the cause of Christ, was alive and well. We marched from the church to City Hall. This time we had complete police protection. As we approached the steps of City Hall, the protestors parted like the Red Sea! As we waited outside the chambers of the Board of Supervisors, a protestor began to sing a sad, mournful song. His performance didn’t last long as 400 men lifted the rotunda off the building by singing in unison – Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me . . .||”|
After the riot, a meeting was held in the chambers of the Board of Supervisors. Local television news cameras and the Christian Broadcasting Network recorded the meeting.
According to Pastor Innes the following took place at the meeting:
|“|| Soon after three o'clock in the afternoon, time was given to speak to the issue of the riot at the church. Speakers alternated, pro and con. When Dr. Lou Sheldon stood at the podium to speak, a major confrontation broke out. The homosexuals and lesbians attempted to deny Dr. Sheldon his right to speak. It was only after several minutes and a threat to clear the chambers that he was able to address the Supervisors. After he spoke, he was assaulted by a man in the front row who spat on him. Eight or ten police officers swiftly entered the chambers, dragged the man out of the room and arrested him.
Shortly thereafter, the pastor of the Hamilton Square Baptist Church, Dr. David C. Innes was intentionally denied his turn to present his complaint to the Supervisors. Supervisor Terrance Hallinan, the one who has described the churches' moral teachings as "an abomination", made a parliamentary move on behalf of Supervisor Migden that cut off discussion of the matter. (Dr. Innes was going to give the homosexual flag back to Supervisor Migden, a gesture that would have been extremely embarrassing to her) [a homosexual flag had been run up the church flag pole during the riot and removed by a church employee. The homosexual flag was run up the flag pole again during the riot and when a church employee tried to remove it he was assaulted and pushed back].
In addition, Carl Herbster, Pastor of Tri-City Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, stated at the Board of Supervisors meeting: "Your city is known worldwide now as a city that is not willing to protect religious freedom."  Herbster also told the Board of supervisors that in regards to San Francisco "major corporations are considering canceling their reservations for conventions because of what took place."
At the Board of Supervisors meeting it appears as if some arrests took place. The San Francisco Chronicle states the following:
|“||Of the three men arrested yesterday only was immediately identified by police. Jonathan Katz, 35, of San Francisco, was cited for inciting a riot, disturbing the peace, trespassing, battery and resisting arrest -- all misdemeanor offenses. The two other men, including the one who spat at Sheldon, were cited for battery, police said.||”|
Pastor Innes made the following commentary what happened on the date of September 21, 1993 a day in which a speaker spoke at their church with substantial police presence protecting the church:
|“|| On Sunday night, November 21, Dr. Lou Sheldon was invited back to speak along with Mr. John Paulk, a homosexual who has been gloriously saved by the grace and power of God...
The victory was sweet. The police had sent the homosexual-lesbian activists the message that they would not tolerate further violence against the churches of the city, and the leaders of the homosexual community put the protestors on notice that they were not to further the public relations disaster that began with the riot. Furthermore, because of the thousands of phone calls and letters to the Board of Supervisors and because of the impact of the Freedom Rally, the supervisors were not able to come to the rescue of the radicals as they normally would have.
In October 1993 Innis turned over to San Francisco police a recording of a telephone message he received that month in which an anonymous caller threatened to toss "jars filled with gasoline" through the windows of his church if he filed suit against one of the gay newspapers that publicized the guest appearance of Louis Sheldon on September 19, 1993.
- CBN - Hamilton Square Baptist Church riot - YouTube video
- California state bill regarding religious meeting disturbances which mentions the Hamilton Square Baptist Church riot
- The Homosexual and Lesbian Riots - A Hamilton Square Baptist Church Member's Perspective
- Christianity Today, November 8, 1993, v37, page 57
- The San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 1993
- San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 1993, article titled: "S.F. Police to Seek Charges in Sept. 19 Church Protest by Gays"
- The Las Vegas Review-Journal, November 9, 1993
- San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 1993
- The San Francisco Chronicle, November 9, 1993
- San Francisco Chronicle, November 9, 1993
- San Franciso Chronicle, Arrests at Unruly Board Meeting / Gays Mix It Up With Fundamentalists, November 9, 1993