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Jun 16, 21

Boulder, CO: Report Back from Boulder Pride Blockade

Report back from a demonstration at Out Boulder County’s Pride Motorcade on June 13th, calling for an end to that organization’s collaboration with police, and for the queer community to reconnect with its roots and build support structures apart from and in opposition to state violence, capitalists, and the non-profit industrial complex.

Boulder, Colorado is a city of massive class divides, and its problems reverberate and are duplicated across Boulder County and its other municipalities. The median home price is $1.5 million. More than half of city residents rent, and of those, over 60% are classified as cost-burdened, paying more than 30% of their monthly income in rent. The median income is over $80,000, but 20% of the population lives below the poverty line. Boulder occupies land stolen from the Ute, Arapahoe and Cheyenne people in violation of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, and has blocked off huge swathes of this land to create a “green belt” largely reserved for the recreation of the wealthy. It has worked for decades to restrict housing growth to virtually zero, leaving many residents unhoused.

Out Boulder County is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that maintains a monopoly on the public perception of queer people in Boulder County, and most funding and resources intended to support queer people are funneled through OBC. Executive director Mardi Moore and her immediate staff are frequently the only people consulted by journalists for queer perspectives, and the county and municipal governments cite OBC’s support to deflect criticism of their homophobic and transphobic policies. Corporations such as Google and Comcast oppress trans employees, donate millions to anti-LGBTQ organizations, and globally exploit people and the environment – then turn to OBC to buy pinkwashing and distract from their violence.

At approximately 12:30 pm the afternoon of June 13th, queer organizers met and obstructed the Out Boulder County-organized Pride motorcade, by using banners to block its planned route at the intersection of 15th Street & Pearl Street. One banner read “No Cops at Pride / No Cops at All.” The other read “Liberation, Not Assimilation”. Chants were heard, including “Bottoms and tops, we all hate cops!” and “Pride was a riot! We can make it one again! / Pride was a riot! It still is!” Meanwhile, other comrades distributed a zine that elaborated on these messages, titled “Whose Pride Is It Anyway?” (printable version included below).

While the rear of the motorcade was soon diverted down 16th Street, the front, led by a fire truck, remained stuck, and motorcycle cops confronted the banner holders and ordered them to move out of the street. A designated police liaison intercepted police officers and carried their threats as an intermediary, delaying them and making it easier for comrades to Shut the Fuck Up and not talk to the cop.

5th and Pearl marks the start of the pedestrian-only heart of bourgeois Boulder, Pearl Street Mall, so the action was observed both by those who had gathered on the route to spectate the motorcade and by many other passersby. As the blockade began, many spectators cheered and shouted supportive messages. Others were confused, asking what “No Cops At All” could mean. Others were openly hostile, with at least one self-identified “supportive mom” thanking the police and jeeringly asking a trans woman “is your mother proud of you?”

The cheers for the police and abuse of protestors by a segment of the Pride observers rips away the mask of performative wokeness from liberal Boulderites who stick BLM signs in their yard and then call the cops on Black people, from petty-bourgeois “progressives” who hang rainbow flags in their businesses while stealing wages from queer workers. A Pride event that prioritizes these people’s comfort over the liberation of the most marginalized is nothing but rainbow fascism.

While they may still be PFLAG darlings, OBC’s harm to QTPOC and the community as a whole has been so egregious that they have even sparked opposition among less-radical LGBTQ+ Boulderites, resulting in a simultaneous unaffiliated protest led by former board members of the organization, sharing their own flyers and stories of being treated with hostility and pushed out of the racist organization after asking for financial transparency and trying to lead diversity and inclusion efforts. While they pushed a reformist agenda, some showed solidarity with the blockade, using their signs to obstruct cameras from recording faces.

Out Boulder had set up a tent at the edge of the mall where professional drag queen Jessica L’Whor was hosting their livestream of the event; L’Whor has been criticized by many in the Denver/Front Range drag scene, including her former collaborator Kai Lee Mykels, for attempting to dominate the community and exclude styles of drag associated with BIPOC. At around 13:00 into the livestream recording, behind L’Whor’s gushing thank-yous to OBC’s long list of corporate sponsors, chanting and motorcycles can be heard in the background; the livestream then cuts out until after the protestors are dispersed.

Due to the vulnerabilities of some queer participants, the blockade dispersed after receiving two warnings of imminent citation from the police.

We consider this to be a largely successful action. Thanks to a small group of on-the-ground actors and the support of remote comrades, OBC’s corporatized, performative parade was forced to avoid one of the most visible and populated intersections along its planned route. The immediate police response and threat of prosecution towards a fairly innocuous and entirely “non-violent” action demonstrated that the state is opposed to any true expression of Pride that does not require its approval or support its violence, and will wield cops against non-conforming queer folks to silence dissent. Spectators who came expecting a sanitized party were instead challenged with exposure to the often-silenced messages of queer resistance, and educational materials were distributed that we hope will raise consciousness among queers who may now realize that radical queer resistance is still a possibility – that we can be free and build our communities outside of the stranglehold of assimilationist non-profits like Out Boulder County.

Digital zine:

Printable zine:

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