Members of Philadelphia’s multiracial LGBTQ community came together to oppose the nomination of the Philadelphia police Gay Officers Action League as grand marshals of the 2016 Philly Pride Parade.
Pride, formerly known as “Gay Pride,” is a yearly celebration of the June 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, where queer and trans people fought back against state-sanctioned police violence in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Armed with rocks and bottles, the multinational grouping of LGBTQ people at The Stonewall Inn held the cops under siege for four days. The rebellion is widely considered a turning point in the struggle for queer and trans liberation.
The nomination of cops to lead this year’s parade in Philadelphia not only represents a gross revision of Pride’s revolutionary history. It’s also a racist attack on the members of the community who continue to be plagued by police abuse, most significantly transgender people of color.
Organizers published an open letter signed by dozens of community members and groups opposing the choice, explaining: “In the midst of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which affirms the value of Black life and fights anti-Black racism and police violence, choosing GOAL as the grand marshals for 2016 is a move that is at best privileged and isolated, and at worst directly undermines this critical work.” (Trentonian.com, May 23) A petition opposing the selection picked up more than 350 signatures in less than a week.
Despite this outpouring of grass-roots opposition to the disgusting pro-cop spectacle, Philly Pride staff remained unresponsive, except to call an emergency meeting where they shamelessly defended their corrupt actions. A grouping of anti-racist LGBTQ individuals, including survivors of police terror, attended the meeting. There they promised civil disobedience, in the true spirit of Stonewall, if the cops were allowed to lead the parade.
Finally, amid growing public pressure and mobilizations for militant anti-cop demonstrations, the cops themselves caved under the pressure. In a May 26 press release posted to GOAL’s Facebook page, the group announced that “after calls from concerned members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) communities, the greater Philadelphia chapter of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) respectfully declined the honor of appearing as Grand Marshals in the Philadelphia Pride Parade.” (facebook.com/phillygoal)
Organizers will continue to meet to plan how to further defend the anti-racist, revolutionary history and future of the queer liberation movement.