Make Pride Revolutionary Again

9:20 AM

By politics editor, Cameron Price

In 2017 alone, pride parades in nearly ten major cities were interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters. In Toronto, for example, Black Lives Matter staged a sit-in midway through the parade. They stated that they would not move until their list of demands were signed by Toronto’s Pride chairs. These demands centered around the removal of police from the parade.

In the US, more Black Lives Matter protestors shared similar goals. Many of those in the audience at these parades were left confused, not understanding why Black people could possibly be uncomfortable in the presence of police officers.

The US government does not keep an official record of the shootings carried out by law enforcement, but the Washington Post has kept a tally. Of the total unarmed civillians shot by police in 2018, 38% were black, despite making up 13% of the total population. According to a study by The Sentencing Project, Black Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of White Americans.

Uniformed officers marching proudly in pride parades creates an unsafe enviroment for Black and Brown LGBT folks, and LGBT folks in general.

Government agencies, especially police, have historically made LGBT people their targets.

For years, it was illegal for people to dress in clothes that were believed to belong to the opposite sex. Such laws were used to criminalize trans people, butch lesbians, and drag queens. It was illegal to dance with the same sex, serve alcohol to gay people, and be out of the closet.

Police would frequently raid gay bars, seeking to catch as many law violations as they could. This was a tactic they used to ensure that LGBT people would feel unsafe, and further the idea that LGBT people were outlaws and pariahs. Thanks to the efforts of activists, a few of these laws were overturned. However, laws criminalizing “homosexual activity”- dancing with the same sex, sodomy, etc- were still in effect. Police continued to raid gay bars, many of which were now run by the mafia, and tensions thickened between police and those sporting gay bars.

In the early morning of June 28, 1969, Stormé DeLarverie- a butch lesbian- got into a fight with an officer. He hit her in the face with his nightstick after yelling a slur at her, prompting her to punch him. According to DeLarverie and other witnesses, that was the spark that started the fire at Stonewall. This prompted Marsha P. Johnson-  a Black, bisexual, trans sex worker- to throw a shot glass at a mirror. After she threw what has become known “the shot glass heard around the world,” witnesses have said she shouted “I got my civil rights!”

Throwing this shot glass then prompted the rest of the bar patrons to begin throwing things at the Stonewall Inn. Police were trapped inside. The riot lasted for four days, with more and more LGBT people coming and holding up signs with their opposition to their treatment clearly stated.

The Stonewall Riots have become known as the first pride parade. Before that, the LGBT community had never come together on such a scale.

Nowadays, it is hard to believe that is where pride parades started. All around the US, pride parades are filled with government agencies, banks, and corporations. Pride has become a festival with little to no sense of the pain LGBT ancestors endured to give birth to such affairs.

Having cops at pride is erasure of LGBT history. It is yet another example of putting the privileged before all others. Pride festivals across the globe have sold out to consumerism. They have become corporate events targeted at pleasing fit, cisgender, masculine, white gay men.

Pride is no longer a political statement but a party; created by and for those who are least likely to become targets of police brutality and racial profiling. Pride is now boycotted and protested by many LGBT individuals and groups who want to make pride revolutionary again.

Many police officers who participate in pride feel as though they are being unfairly targeted by the Black Lives Matter movement. In an interview with CBC News, Mike McCormack, the Toronto Police Association President, said felt that they deserved an apology.

Similarily to the US, Toronto Pride’s parade originated as a protest.

In a time that images of young Black men being murdered by police are constantly on social media, where Black and Brown LGBT indivuals are harrassed and incarcerated by police at rates disproportionate to those in the community who are white, it is necessary to make pride a safe place. One of the biggest way to achieve this is to exlude uniformed police from marching in the parade.

It is time to make black lives matter at pride.

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