Pressure is building to kick cops and corporations out of Pride marches and events in LGBTQ2S+ communities across the U.S.
Activist resistance to the state and to capitalism is intensifying this year, the 50th anniversary of the historic Stonewall Rebellion in New York City, which was sparked by a violent police raid.
For five decades the New York Police Department has refused to apologize for the harassment, the raid, the beatings and arrests at the Stonewall Bar in 1969. Finally, on June 6, current commissioner James O’Neill issued a vague “sorry.”
His apology was promptly rejected by organizers of NYC’s alternate Reclaim Pride as a symbolic public relations stunt to frame cop brutality and state punishment of LGBTQ2S+ people as happening only in the past.
The very real, current impact of cops and the state on the lives of LGBTQ2S+ people was tragically confirmed the day after that perfunctory apology.
Layleen Polanco Xtravaganza, an Afro-Latinx transgender woman, died June 7 in solitary confinement in New York City’s notoriously abusive Rikers Island jail. She was locked up because she couldn’t afford bail for a misdemeanor charge. (Workers World, June 13)
A few facts from this June alone show the current reality of state anti-LGBTQ2S+ violence.
On June 1, a trans woman from El Salvador died after seven weeks in ICE detention without medical care. On June 2, a Tennessee cop called for “the government” to execute “gay people.” (think.progress) On June 8, armed neo-Nazis threatened Detroit Pride while police provided an escort for the white supremacists. On June 22, at St. Pete Pride in Florida, a cop contingent marched close behind the Sex Workers Outreach Project, sparking fears about safety and surveillance.
Returning to radical roots
But alternate Pride organizers are challenging the state and returning to the radical roots of the Stonewall Rebellion.
On June 9, in Sacramento, Calif., hundreds of demonstrators blocked the entrance to that city’s festival, carrying “No Cops at Pride” and “Black Trans Lives Matter” signs. Malkia Devich Cyril, a queer activist and leader in Movement for Black Lives, has denounced the police as ”a force of terror for queer and trans communities.” (Guardian, June 13)
The new Pride is linked to the revolutionary acts of resistance in the three-day Stonewall street battles of 1969 led by trans people of color, gender-nonconforming homeless youth, queer draft resisters to the Vietnam War, Black gay fighters against racism and militant sex workers using their high heels as weapons.
The Stonewall Uprising challenged both big business with Mafia ties and the paid-off police department serving the state.
Now the movement to reclaim Pride is again challenging the cops — part of the “armed bodies” of the state — and also the U.S. state itself, founded on capitalist white supremacy and patriarchy.
LGBTQ2S+ people are marching against U.S. imperialism and persecution of im/migrant peoples. Their banners say: “No Pride in Genocide.” LGBTQ2S+ people are marching for Pride, but only if it includes everyone: “No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”
For some decades, Pride celebrations have been flooded with corporate money. Huge contingents of LGBTQ2S+ workers and allies march at Pride under their bosses’ banners — Honda, T-Mobile, U-Haul and more.
But “Stonewall Means Fight Back!” was proclaimed on the banner of Workers World Party’s Gay Caucus of Youth Against War & Fascism in the 1970s.
That’s a call to all those marching Pride workers to take up their banners and turn out into the streets for “Pride in Worker Solidarity!” That means fighting consciously for queer LGBTQ2S+ working-class and oppressed lives, not advertising profit-hungry bosses.
LGBTQ2S+ members of WWP and other socialist organizations were hand-in-hand with the Stonewall Rebellion that opened a new front in the struggle against oppression.
Now, reclaiming Pride means we must intensify that struggle until there are “No cops and no corporations in Pride!”