There is no Pride without protest

by Marchaé Grair | originally published June 24, 2017 on Wish Cleveland

As Cleveland hosts its second Pride festival this month, a shadow looms over LGBTQ celebrations in Ohio—a shadow that was cast during the Pride celebration in Columbus last week.

Four protesters (#TheBlackPride4) were arrested during a peaceful demonstration at Columbus Pride. The protesters were part of a small group who requested seven minutes of silence in response to the police killing of Philando Castile and acquittal of the officer who shot him. They also sought to call attention to the lack of representation within Pride celebrations and the failure of the white LGBTQ community to recognize the alarming violence against trans women of color.

Protesters stepped into the street to halt the parade route with their mouths covered in tape and their arms linked.

While the Columbus police claim the protesters resisted arrest, video footage shows officers aggressively pushing and provoking the protesters before arresting them. The Columbus police also claim that one of the protesters tried to grab a weapon from an officer and are attempting to charge this protester with aggravated robbery, which would be a felony. Protesters (and other eye witnesses) deny this claim.

The protesters were queer and trans folks of color, and as they were arrested, the mostly white crowd at Columbus Pride laughed, cheered, and even spat on them.

Most white folks in the LGBTQ community are saying the protesters got what they deserved. Stonewall Columbus, the organization who plans Columbus Pride, has been ambiguous in their support of the protesters at best and outright negligent at the worst.

Many white LGBTQ Ohioans continue to denounce the demonstration. It seems they have forgotten LGBTQ history and why we celebrate Pride in June.

The modern LGBTQ rights movement started on June 28, 1969 when a group of trans and queer folks rioted in response to police harassment at the Stonewall Inn.

They were tired of being searched, sexually harassed, and arrested. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women of color, lead the charge.

Pride exists because the people at Stonewall dared to say no to being mistreated, specifically by the police. They decided to fight back, even if it meant getting arrested.

Because so many within the LGBTQ community don’t know its history—or willfully choose to ignore it—they don’t acknowledge that Pride celebrations aren’t just rooted in celebrating LGBTQ identity. Pride exists because people recognized the need for resistance to abusive treatment by the police.

The response to the #BlackPride4 reflects how far the LGBTQ movement has moved away from its roots of radical protest and found respite in co-signing state-sanctioned violence on Black bodies.

People of color in the LGBTQ community will never be able to feel safe as long as the white LGBTQ community disregards our voices, our bodies, and our struggles.

Stonewall Columbus, and the Ohio LGBTQ community as a whole, should be more concerned with protecting Black Lives than a brief interruption to a parade route.

Inspired by this story?

1. Unapologetically say #BlackLivesMatter all year, but especially during Pride celebrations.

2. Share this Facebook post, which documents discrepancies between Stonewall’s public proclamations of support for the protesters and their actual allyship.

3. Contact Stonewall Columbus directly by calling 614-299-7764 or emailing and insist on their solidarity with the #Black4Pride.

4. Donate to Columbus Community Pride, the alternative to Columbus’s rainbow capitalist Pride  celebration.