2017 is the year of resistance, the era of dissent. We’re halfway through the calendar year and 150 days into an administration that is anti-progress, anti-inclusivity, anti-equality, and anti-humanity.
The Pride parade has become a celebration of LGBTQ identity, of how hard queer people have had to fight to earn the rights that they do have today. But with so many issues heading backwards in our country, some people have called for the ‘parade’ to be set aside for a march, the party to be put on hold for the protest.
The History of Pride
On June 28, 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn for serving alcohol without a liquor license. It was yet another instance of law enforcement targeting gay clubs. But when officers arrested patrons of the club–three drag queens and a lesbian–in addition to the employees, the crowd had enough, and began throwing bottles. The ‘riot’ spilled over into neighboring streets until the riot police appeared.
The ‘Stonewall Riots’ were the first major protest for equal rights for homosexuals, and prompted the formation of the Gay Liberation Front. In 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Riots, the first Gay Pride parades were held in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Pride and Controversy
This year, Pride arrived with more than the usual amount of controversy. With human rights under attack, those of immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, and more, some people began to feel that this was not the time for a celebration, so much as it was a time for protest.
Los Angeles announced back in March that instead of the annual Pride parade, they would be holding a human rights march, but not as a direct response to the administration, according to board member Brian Pendleton. “It’s about marching for human rights, which are a Republican concept and a Democratic concept.
“We’re getting back to our roots,” Pendleton said. “We will be resisting forces that want to roll back our rights, and politicians who want to make us second-class citizens.”
San Francisco Pride
San Francisco’s Pride celebration is one of the largest in the world, and something of a rite of passage for many. This year, more and more attendees participated in Pride with the spirit of its inception: protest.
Sandi Kaplan is part of a local group that sprung up when 45 was elected. Begun as a small group of friends who invited more friends and friends of friends, they wanted to serve as a watchdog to the current administration. To be the ones to stand up and fight against attempts to strip human rights.
With Pride coming up, the group began to discuss what they might do. “We approached the board of directors,” Kaplan said. “And talked about how this was not the time for celebration around being queer–I mean, it’s always a time of celebrating what we’ve gained–but we need to use this time now to speak up.
“Since the whole world’s eyes are on this parade, we wanted to show that we were not going to go quietly while this administration sought to revoke our rights.”
The board agreed with them, and together they spread the word. “We wanted to put together a contingent of 5,000 strong,” Kaplan explained. “And we focused on three main highlights: Black Lives Matter, Trans Rights, and No Ban, No Wall.”
While she wasn’t sure how many people were part of the Resistance Contingent, Kaplan estimated that the people marching as part of that group added a full hour to the parade’s length.
“It was a beautiful thing to be a part of,” she said, likening it to the Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who, where the one final, tiny voice was enough to save its own tiny universe. “That was what it felt like to me. Regardless of what happens tomorrow or the next day, it was empowering to know: it’s not just me or my small group, in a matter of months we were easily able to get enough people to march down Market Street for an hour, protesting what this administration is trying to do to queers.”
To Kaplan and her group, it was important that their protest stood up for the rights of the many people who currently face discrimination, from people at the top of government as well as from fellow citizens.
“It was incredible to feel like immigrants and Black Lives Matter and the group of queers who came together to march understood that this issue is bigger than gay, lesbian, and trans folks and if we don’t bring everyone together under one umbrella, we are all going down.”
Still, not everyone had the same vision for what Pride should look like this year.
“It was interesting, even just the planning of it,” Kaplan remembers. “There were some organizations who refused to march with Pride if they continued to allow a police presence. Others didn’t want to be part of Pride if corporate sponsorship was involved. A lot of controversy.”
Andreana Clay marched with Black Lives Matter in the Pride parade in 2015, when Alicia Garza, co-founder of the movement, was the grand marshal, and has attended several protests since. But this year, she and a few of her friends were talking about their disappointment with what they saw as Pride’s focus on corporate sponsorship. “We were talking about our disappointment in Pride and what’s happening in the Bay Area in terms of gentrification and the erasure of queer culture, when that culture has been such a big part of why we’ve been here in the first place.”
They heard about Los Angeles’ choice to cancel the city’s Pride for a resistance parade–without corporate sponsorship. The group was upset by the San Francisco Pride board’s refusal to do the same, and wanted to set up a way to protest Trump and the current administration.
“We didn’t think that a resistance contingency was enough,” Clay said.
So Ann Whidden came up with a protest centered around “No reign on our parade,” in response to the rampant police brutality and murders of black people. The group wrote in white on black umbrellas statements like “Police Reign Kills QTPOC,” “Racist Cops Throw Shade on This Parade,” and “A Riot Against Police Violence.”
Five people of color started out with 40 umbrellas, gathering more people to their group as they walked. “We didn’t sign up, bud we did sneak into the parade,” Clay explained. “We weren’t sure what we were going to try to do, if we were going to try to shut it down or do something else. Regardless, we wanted to get the message out that we didn’t go along with corporate sponsorship.”
Regarding LA’s reasons for cancelling their parade, Clay agreed, “I do feel similarly that now is not really the time (for celebration). Pride is so interesting because we are in such a different time now than when it was first conceived as a form of recognition.
“The parade has become a celebration,” Clay noted. “But now trans women and trans black women are being murdered and attacked and I don’t think that now is the time to be dressing up in rainbow colors. I think we should be protesting, even against the groups that speak for us.”
Taking a stand
For these protesters and many others, Pride was another important opportunity to take a stand. Against the current presidential administration as well as the many layers of authority in between that are threatening the lives and well-being of so many.
“People are clearly fired up,” Andreana Clay said. “There were lots of groups like the contingent that had been organizing occupation against the state in a similar way, and I think that we can be doing more as a community.”
“It feels like hate has been sanctioned,” Sandi Kaplan said. “When you have someone running for president who is saying things to his audience like “That man’s a heckler, get him out of here, rough him up and I’ll pay the lawyer bills.” It gives our country permission to hate and commit hate crimes and know that it’s sanctioned by our president.”
In the first month after Trump was elected, The Southern Poverty Law Center calculated 1,094 “hate-filled attacks or acts of intimidation.”
“Those were the issues that we were gathering around together,” Kaplan concluded. “To say ‘we’re here, we are not going to stand for it, we are standing for the country we love.’ A place where people can live up to their highest dream.”