Should We Let Police and Problematic Corporations March in Pride Parades?
This Saturday, an organization named No Justice No Pride (NJNP) repeatedly blocked the Capital Pride parade in Washington D.C. to protest the participation of police groups and corporations like Lockheed Martin and Wells Fargo Bank for their connections to arms manufacturing, privatized prisons, immigrant detention centers and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). NJNP’s protest reignited a long-burning question over how closely the LGBTQ community should align itself with organizations whose work harms LGBTQ individuals.
During their protest, NJNP demonstrators held street-length banners that read, “Queer and trans resistance,” “No pride in police violence,” “No pride in prisons, pipelines or deportations,” “Wells Fargo = native genocide; private prisons and immigrant detention,” and “War profiteers have no place in our community.”
Here’s video of NJNP’s protest:
The group met with police and displeased parade goers who spat at them and threw bottles — other parade attendees formed protective human-circles around some of the protestors. Police had anticipated counter-protests and re-routed the march without making any arrests.
Incorporating marginalized queers into pride
A handful of online commenters mistakenly conflated NJNP with Black Lives Matter (BLM), possibly because of a similar protest that BLM staged during Toronto’s 2016 pride parade. However, NJNP is a multi-racial group who aims on reforming D.C.’s pride celebration.
NJNP participant Emmelia Talarico said:
“Corporations that desecrate Native land, manufacture weapons and support private prisons — and law enforcement agencies that disproportionately harass, kill, and arrest queer and trans people of color — cannot be considered LGBT ‘allies.’”
Another said, “I feel like I have more in common with straight people who are both [people of color] and… poor than I do with the majority of the pride-goers.”
In a statement on NJNP’s website, the organizers say that they have given Capital Pride “many chances to address our concerns,” but that Capital Pride has been repeatedly dismissive.
NJNP’s demands include barring police and “corporate entities that inflict harm on historically marginalized LGBTQ2S” from future pride parades and expanding leadership positions to “represent and center the leadership of historically marginalized communities.”
The cases for police and problematic corporations
Despite the fact that pride parades originally began as protests against police, some LGBTQ people — like black, gay Canadian writer Orville Lloyd Douglas — says that he disagrees with organizations that want to bar police from pride events.
Douglas says that a lot of other black queers in Toronto don’t speaak in favor of police inclusion in pride events for fear of being labelled an “Uncle Tom” or a “house negro.” He feels that police presence helps keep pride events safe and reflects positive bridge building between the LGBTQ communities and police.
Furthermore, city permitting and other logistical considerations have made pride parades costly affairs, with bills reaching into the millions. Hence, many pride organizations offset their costs with corporate sponsorships. But in the case of Chicago’s 2016 pride, 132 of the parade’s floats were corporate and only 18 belonged to LGBTQ organizations.
Corporations have also been a positive force of late in pressuring state governments not to pass anti-LGBTQ measures. In U.S. states and foreign countries that lack LGBTQ workplace protections, pro-LGBTQ companies can offer job security for LGBTQ while pressuring the local government to pursue equality-minded pro-business policies that will increase local employment and commerce.
(Featured image by Emmelia Augusta Talarico)