“As of mid-June 2017, thirteen black and brown trans women have been murdered this year.”
While LGBTQ Pride began as a riot lead by black and brown trans women, today’s Pride celebrations do nothing to address the unjust system that oppresses queer people of varying intersectional identities, namely Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC). As of mid-June 2017, thirteen black and brown trans women have been murdered this year. Queer youths are kicked out of their homes and make up almost half of the homeless youth population across the country. Transphobia and transmisogyny run rampant in all aspects of culture. Instead of throwing bricks, burning police cars, or taking it to the streets in protest, Pride has lost its revolutionary roots and instead become an agent of the very thing that oppresses us.
On Sunday June 18th, Philadelphia Pride proved problematic as ever, starting with the sponsorship by multiple alcohol brands, big banks, and investment companies. These corporate interests do not at all represent the struggles of QTPOC, and often systemically oppress these populations further. After the corporate Pride parade, instead of an accessible community-based event, attendees were expected to pay fifteen dollars to get in to a post-celebration at Penn’s Landing, just to pay even more money for everything inside. Pride should be an inclusive celebration, but instead, if you are one of the hundreds of homeless LGBTQ youth in Philadelphia, you likely wouldn’t even be able to afford to attend.
More than ever we need a Pride that isn’t cissexist, racist, and transphobic – but Pride has been co-opted. Philadelphia’s queer community is not short of racism: the senior adviser for Philadelphia corporate Pride is a huge Trump supporter, the owner of the gay club ICandy throws around the “n-word,” and there was huge backlash when the City of Philadelphia included a black and brown stripe on the rainbow flag this year.
Realizing that something had to be done, Philly’s Equity Coalition organized an event called QTPOC Take Pride Back that aimed to start with a rally at City Hall, protest along certain areas of the corporate Pride parade, and end in a protest at Penn’s Landing. Through community organization, the event was able to draw in people from different backgrounds and give voices to the black, brown, and trans members of our community who too often are ignored during Pride. QTPOC Take Pride Back shed light on the sick injustice that Pride itself has become in exploiting queer people for money while serving the interests of the cis white gay men.
QTPOC Take Pride Back started off at City Hall with a group of about 65 who gathered to listen to speakers that galvanized the crowd with their personal experiences as queer people of color. As the event progressed, police presence began to grow. First, a group of about ten bike cops were stationed on the corner, two undercover police stood on the sidewalk behind the crowd, then a police van parked nearby, and finally a counter terrorism vehicle parked behind that van. As the speakers began to conclude, a black bloc of about 20, donning militant queer branded shields and flags, descended upon the event creating a protective barrier behind the QTPOC Take Pride Back attendees. Dozens of matching flags and trans colored bandanas were passed out in solidarity with the bloc.
Shortly after the speakers finished, organizers roused the crowd to begin the march. The march from City Hall was lead by QTPOC and the bloc was in a “U” formation around the back to protect the vulnerable sections. Shields and flags were used as noise makers as several chant leaders shouting “take Pride back!” As QTPOC Take Pride Back and the bloc marched, they were immediately followed by a wave of bike cops flanking both sides attempting to disrupt the march and discourage marching. They were unsuccessful and the march cut down the middle of Broad Street. At this point, the police began their aggression towards the bloc and plain clothes protestors by riding in the streets and attempting to hit protesters with bikes.
The front of the QTPOC Take Pride Back march began to make it’s way down a side street, in order to gain access to the corporate Pride march, but was blocked by bike cops once again. After some maneuvering, the march was able to go down another side street to gain access to a section of the corporate Pride parade. Then police quickly formed a line of separation between corporate attendees and the march. On megaphones, the QTPOC Take Pride Back marshals encouraged the crowd of corporate parade attendees to realize the damage being done to the LGBTQ community and to join them in the streets in solidarity.
As the QTPOC Take Pride Back march continued on each street continued to be blocked by police. At one point a police line on a particularly isolated street began physically assaulting plain clothed QTPOC Take Pride Back marchers, using their bikes as weapons to slam people to the ground and hit people, even openly punching and grabbing trans people. Luckily, the bloc and marchers jumped to action defending targeted folks and actively resisting the police violence through the use of shields and flag poles. It should be noted that any and ALL comrades who were grabbed were successfully de-arrested and no arrests were made.
“some corporate Pride attendees were high-fiving and fist-bumping with police, the same police who 20 minutes before were smashing their bikes…”
After several kettling attempts and increased violence by police, the QTPOC Take Pride Back marchers and black bloc were separated into three sections: two were caught on cross streets and the other, representing a large number of the bloc, escaped into the corporate Pride parade, quickly followed by a line of police. Even with a guard of police, the bloc was immediately met with intense cries of support by corporate Pride attendees and many even joined in anti-cop and anti-corporate chants. However, some corporate Pride attendees dissented and were high-fiving and fist-bumping with police, the same police who 20 minutes before were smashing their bikes in to QTPOC. Once the corporate Pride parade route had finished, the black bloc to exited the march without issue.
Even though protesting outside of Penn’s Landing was no longer possible due to the amount of police violence shown toward QTPOC Take Pride Back marchers and the bloc, the goal had been fulfilled through infiltration of the corporate Pride parade, protection provided to marchers by the bloc, and bringing awareness to corporate Pride parade attendees. Afterward, a free queer picnic for the community was provided by a local Food Not Bombs chapter and other accomplices. The picnic itself embodied another portion of what LGBTQ Pride should be about: community building, support, compassion, and free access for everyone no matter income or background.
Reflecting back on June 18th, it’s apparent that only through militant resistance of the state and its corporate entities will progress be reached. Queer people must ask themselves: What would Marsha do? What would Sylvia do? What would our other Queer siblings who started the Stonewall Riots do? For every brick we grab, every body we put on the line, every pig we face, every window that gets smashed, we do so with them.
Special notation: in the days following June 18th, it became clear that the level of resistance for QTPOC Take Pride Back from the police came directly from a 9-1-1 call by a cis white gay male organizer who sought to attack the Equity Coalition. This is a stark reminder of the history that liberals have had condemning revolutionary movements across the years.