Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Featured, Northwest, Queer, Trans
A look at how community members in Boise, Idaho mobilized to defend Pride celebrations from threats by violent far-Right groups.
A prepared community defense is a destination that can be difficult to reach when the call for it is often unexpected and urgent. It’s a series of responses and best guesses to worst-case-scenarios, informed by experience, intel, and community input. Boise Pride Defense started with a single question, asked by many voices: what are we going to do?
Many voices responded; that’s the beauty of community. In this space, we’ll attempt to share the experiences and takeaways of a few of those voices.
The day after Labor Day, six days before the final day of Boise’s three-day Pride Festival, there was a growing, coordinated call from Idaho’s politically connected far-Right to physically target Boise Pride, and specifically a kids’ event on the third day, September 11th. From what we can tell, this panic was started by anti-Critical Race Theory media manipulator, Chris Rufo, who falsely claimed that an event that was supposed to feature LGBTQ youth singing songs and dressing up, was instead going to be an insidious display of gay adults sexually “grooming” children. This false claim was then echoed by the anti-Semitic troll and ex-Identity Evropa neo-Nazi, David Reilly, on his social media and fake news site, The Idaho Tribune, which attempts to produce far-Right click-bait. A short time later, the Idaho Liberty Dogs, (a far-Right militia-type group known for organizing counter-protests against Black Lives Matter and other social movements), began sharing these calls and openly pushed for counter-demonstrations.
A flyer was then produced calling for people to protest “child abuse & perversion” at Boise Pride on both the 9th and the 11th as the Idaho Liberty Dogs set up Facebook events. On social media, Proud Boys began sharing the flyer on Twitter, spamming it indiscriminately in replies anywhere folks tweeted about Boise Pride. As far-Right websites shared the flyers and threats of 300 Proud Boys arriving to attack Boise Pride made the rounds, it appeared as if the far-Right was preparing for a large-scale conflict.
By promoting baseless lies about the LGBTQ community, the Right encourages fascist violence. https://t.co/L7Qzh2PG7F
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 10, 2022
As apprehension over the anti-Pride protests increased, the far-Right media-sphere including the Daily Caller and Breitbart, began promoting a mass harassment campaign against Boise Pride sponsors. Alarmingly, this campaign was publicly supported by the Idaho GOP, giving this coordinated hate campaign an air of legitimacy. This effort was heavily supported and promoted by white nationalist “Groypers” associated with America First, led by Unite the Right marcher and Holocaust denier, Nick Fuentes. America First leader Vincent James Foxx called on Groypers to target the event. Nick Fuentes and Paul Gosar shared the Idaho Tribune’s article about the event, and even Idaho’s Lt. Governor, Janice McGeachin, used her official platform to boost the hate campaign.
Each day, there were new threats, sponsors were dropping out, and increased pressure was applied against the city and the event. It was in this chaos that Boise Pride Defenders decided that they needed to step up and stand with their neighbors and community. Eventually, the threats had mounted to the point that Boise Pride organizers didn’t feel that they could guarantee the safety of the “Drag Kids” event. The event was “postponed” and removed from the schedule. With blood in the water, the Idaho Liberty Dogs then called for folks to target another event, Drag Story Time, instead.
This section must be understood a reflection of one individual’s experience:
My preparation involved getting together with trusted friends and those I’ve engaged in struggle with before. We had conversations discussing the threats and what we could do to help the queer community in our city. Early on, it was agreed that our Pride Defense wasn’t meant to be gate-keep: everyone was welcome; it was all hands on deck. Word spread to other circles and those who were having similar conversations. It was this loose network of autonomous actors, through connected and overlapping friendship circles, that became the backbone of the Pride Defense. Ideas and feedback were shared communally, often anonymously, evaluated, and passed on or passed back.
One goal of the defense was to keep the attendees (families, children, regular folks) from being harassed by hateful anti-LGBTQ protesters. Another goal was to prevent the creation of incendiary content that could be used to further target and traumatize the community. These goals, along with safety concerns and responses to specific threats, informed most of the defense, with individuals and autonomous groups implementing them however they were able.
On the first and second days of Pride, individuals representing hate groups and far-Right organizations did materialize at the festival, but the sheer volume of attendees at Boise Pride prevented them from taking any action or even staying in one place for long. These individuals mostly just showed up, took a look around, and left. While many folks were nervous and expected the worst going into the event, the positive energy of Pride was infectious and completely undiminished by the scattered showing of a few bigots. A city-wide sigh of relief was breathed each evening.
The third day was different. Idaho Liberty Dogs organizer, Devin Miller, showed up early and was quickly spotted by Pride Defenders already on site. As word spread of Miller’s arrival, Defenders started moving towards their positions to both keep eyes on the Idaho Liberty Dogs and to limit their ability to harass and target Boise Pride attendees.
Boise delivered a new tactic in their defense of Pride on Sunday.
It was incredibly effective: in this screenshot taken from a hostile video, the event is completely obscured.
Well done, Pride defenders. 🖤 pic.twitter.com/IPK4GSRqkP
— Redoubt Antifascists (@RedoubtAFA) September 13, 2022
One flyer that was shared among Pride supporters encouraged folks to bring flags and umbrellas, with inspiration borrowed from ongoing clinic defense in New York City earlier this month. Boise’s umbrella wall formed as people gathered with their neighbors and took up space to protect their community. Pride Defenders continued to arrive and took up positions as many people, including random passersby and regular Pride attendees, joined in on the defense.
As more members of the Idaho Liberty Dogs materialized – because of the wall of umbrellas in front of them, they struggled to agitate the wider group and thus gain attention and produce content for their viewers. Before they were able to find a different entry-point, a group wearing colorful 10 foot costume wings, extended and controlled by poles held by the hands, took position at the front of the defensive line, their backs to the Idaho Liberty Dogs. Umbrellas moved in to support the wings, filling in the gaps. At this point, the Idaho Liberty Dogs were completely cut off from viewing or harassing Pride. Around a dozen members of the Idaho Liberty Dogs continued to stand around and quietly complain, as their leader desperately tried to instigate conflict.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 12, 2022
About a dozen anti-LGBTQ bigots cycled through the pathetic counter-protester alongside the Liberty Dogs, as the chuds saw that it was pointless and soon left; unwilling to stick around while thousands enjoyed themselves at the festival. A neo-Nazi, a sex-offender, and an officer of the Libertarian Party of Idaho were among those spotted targeting Boise Pride along with the Idaho Liberty Dogs.
Eventually, frustrated at being completely shut down and only managing to mobilize a handful of supporters, the Idaho Liberty Dogs lingered around the outskirts of the event before joining a 9/11 memorial taking place across the street. A small group followed them to keep an eye on any continued attempts to harass Pride goers. Exasperated and defeated by such a joyful community and unable to achieve any of their hateful goals: the Idaho Liberty Dogs ended their event. Boise Pride, and the Boise Pride Defense, were both overwhelmingly successful.
Everyone can, and should, contribute to community defense. We must all protect each other when hate comes for any of us. Standing against this threat was scary for many; but we faced it together and that created a stronger and and more joyful community. We feel inspired by each other and took inspiration from others doing similar things before us. We also hope to inspire others to stand up against white supremacists and gender fascists in the future.
Love and Solidarity,
(Just a few of the many) Anonymous and Autonomous Boise Pride Defenders