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News + PoliticsBlack Lives Matter, others pull out of SF Pride...

Black Lives Matter, others pull out of SF Pride Parade

Three major participants have dropped out of this year’s SF Pride parade, after the SF Pride organization announced earlier this week that it would heighten security in the wake of the Orlando attacks.

Black Lives Matter Bay Area (scheduled to receive Pride’s Lifetime Achievement award), sex worker health clinic St. James Infirmary (receiving the “Heritage of Pride” award), and anti-incarceration TGI Justice Project‘s Janetta Johnson (a community grand marshal) held a press conference this morning to announce their withdrawal from the parade and celebration. The organizations will still accept their awards.

SF Pride, whose theme this year is “Racial and Economic Justice” earlier this week announced it was taking unprecedented security measures this year, including screening entrants to Sunday’s Civic Center celebration with metal detectors and bag searches. Newly forbidden items include shopping carts, e-cigarettes, and “any item deemed inappropriate or hazardous by law enforcement and/or security.”

Janetta Johnson of the TGI Justice Project led the effort to withdraw from the parade
Janetta Johnson of the TGI Justice Project led the effort to withdraw from the parade. Artwork by Micah Bazant.

Concerns among LGBT communities of color, as well as individual participants, were immediately raised when the new security measures were announced. Many felt alienated and less safe by the sudden increase in security force presence and potential violation of civil liberties. Already, members of the local Latino LGBT community felt that the Orlando tragedy was being “whitewashed,” the focus shifting from the racism and homophobia directed at the communities directly affected and placed in contexts of xenophobian anti-immigration, and increased militarism on the national political stage.

According to a statement from the withdrawing organizations distributed to journalists, “In light of the recent announcement that Pride participants would be subject to increased policing, metal detectors and discretionary admittance, several Grand Marshals and awardees of the ‘Racial and Economic Justice’ themed event are withdrawing from participation in the Pride Parade or Civic Center activities because of the unsafe conditions created for our communities by law enforcement.”

The statement continued, “In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting that took the lives of dozens of queer, trans and gender non-conforming people of color, many people in our community are afraid. For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence. We had a tough decision to make, and ultimately we chose to keep our people safe by not participating in any event that would leave our communities vulnerable to either.”

Black Lives Matter and SF Pride joined for a forum at the Commonwealth Club earlier this week.
Black Lives Matter and SF Pride joined for a forum at the Commonwealth Club earlier this week.

In the statement, Shanelle Matthews, a member of Black Lives Matter, says, “‘In the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, Black communities experience real fear and terror at the hands of homophobic vigilantes and law enforcement, and we work every day to find solutions. We know the militarization of large-scale events only gives the illusion of safety. We are choosing to do the real work of building safe communities.”

Among those who had voiced immediate concern on social media about Pride’s new security measures was St. James Infirmary Executive Director Stephanie Joy Ashley, who was joined by TGI Justice Project’s Janetta Johnson, who is also a member of Black Lives Matter. They came together to form a coalition and make the withdrawal statement, according to TGI JP spokesperson Woods Ervin.

“When Janetta heard that there would be sweeps of street-based communities and the increased police presence, we knew we had to do something,” Ervin told 48 Hills by phone.  “The appropriate response to the Orlando tragedy is nor more policing of communities of color, who are already the most vulnerable to abuse and are the most alienated by increased police presence. This does not make those communities feel safer.

“Our intent with this action is to amplify the need for the city to be able to address safety issues without immediately resorting to more policing,” Ervin said. “The city should work with the affected communities to build alternatives to policing, and utilize multiple other methods of de-escalation and conflict resolution.”

FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

IN RESPONSE TO INCREASED POLICING OF CIVIC CENTER, GRAND MARSHALS, AWARDEES WITHDRAW FROM PARTICIPATION IN PRIDE PARADE

Multiple Pride honorees state that increased policing and militarized security makes LGBTQI communities of color unsafe at Pride Celebration.

San Francisco, CA – In light of the recent announcement that PRIDE participants would be subject to increased policing, metal detectors and discretionary admittance, several Grand Marshals and awardees of the “racial & economic justice” themed event are withdrawing from participation in the Pride Parade or Civic Center activities because of the unsafe conditions created for our communities by law enforcement. In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting that took the lives of dozens of queer, trans and gender non-conforming people of color, many people in our community are afraid. For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence. We had a tough decision to make, and ultimately we chose to keep our people safe by not participating in any event that would leave our communities vulnerable to either.

Grand Marshal Janetta Johnson, Executive Director of the TGI Justice Project- an organization by and for trans, gender non-conforming and intersex people in prisons, jails and detention centers – announced her decision to withdraw from the parade at a PRIDE press conference on Friday. “While I am thankful for this honor, and grateful to Pride for bringing our work to the front this year, the decision to add more police to Pride does not make me, or my community, more safe” Johnson said.

While honorees recognized the increased concerns about safety in light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, several argued that a greater police presence would increase the likelihood of violence against queer and trans people of color. “In the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, Black communities experience real fear and terror at the hands of homophobic vigilantes and law enforcement, and we work every day to find solutions. We know the militarization of large-scale events only gives the illusion of safety. We are choosing to do the real work of building safe communities” said Shanelle Matthews, a member of Black Lives Matter, who also announced their withdrawal from the parade.

The St. James Infirmary, which was slated to receive the Heritage of Pride Award at the main stage on Sunday, echoed the concerns of the Grand Marshals. “LGBT sex workers are often victims of violence and exploitation at the hands of police” said Executive Director Stephany Ashley. “The increased police presence at Civic Center, as well as the ban on shopping carts and items typically belonging to marginally housed and homeless people will only make pride less safe and accessible to our communities. These policies do not reflect the theme of racial & economic justice which we sought to march under proudly.”

The move comes a week after Grand Marshals of the New Orleans Pride Parade, BreakOUT! announced they would not be marching because increased law enforcement made its members- predominantly young trans people of color- feel unsafe to do so. In addition to a 25% increase in local law enforcement (both in uniform and undercover), federal law enforcement agencies are also scheduled to be on site at the Civic Center events.

In closing Janetta Johnson thanked SF PRIDE for their collaboration and understanding, “I am so honored that the community selected me. It is important that other Black trans women, especially younger girls and especially formerly incarcerated Black trans women, know that we matter, our actions matter, that we can work together to create a different future. But I just don’t feel comfortable accepting being in this parade. I walk in my neighborhood and see so many people sleeping on the street. I know come Sunday, they won’t be allowed to be here and many will be in jail. Particularly, in the San Francisco County Jail, where one of my Sisters, Athena Cadence, is on the 24th day of a hunger strike to demand a gender self-determination housing and search policy be implemented.

“But I can’t even bring myself to call it housing really, the truth is my community needs house keys not handcuffs, needs care not cages, needs jobs and job training, economic power and cultural self-determination. We need safety, real safety. And when Black trans women are safe, in our city, in our society, every single day. When my community is safe, then we can be really proud.”

 

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

170 COMMENTS

  1. I hear you and agree with you re: creating a mini safe place. I did not see this (your posted response) last year – and am so happy to have circled back to this article and found your sage suggestion. This year (2017) – for SF Pride – Grand Marshal Alex U Inn + the resistance contingent made an attempt to participate – they were paid lip service (told that their lives and voices matter) and then they were pushed through by police and pride monitors to only be summarily/purposefully left out of the televised portion of the parade. The commUNITY of all ethnicities, genders, abilities and ages are going to take your wise advice and start gathering in public spaces and hosting pride events – free for our entire Rainbow Tribe. <3

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  31. @Adam – You misread the point. Though the city in general voted for Sit/Lie, this community voted against it. The Haight also voted against it, but that’s where it’s enforced the most.

  32. Destroying tent cities and people’s lives are tactics. Booing is an honest, emotional response by people who are invested.

  33. All fine and dandy, but your sentiments aren’t those of Black Lives Matter, and in this case, what Matters, is that they walked away. And it’s not like they were facing attack dogs, or any of the things standing in solidarity with the persecuted has meant to gain civil rights.

    But you’re right, they as an organization could have thrown together a mini safe place rally, and celebrated elsewhere – did they?

  34. PROUD THEY GOT BOOED

    Of course they got booed. Lucky them. Mark Leno supports Scott Wiener. Scott Wiener supports Ed Lee who supports the bloodthirsty, murderous SFPD as they destroy the lives of the homeless. 30% of the homeless are LGBT. If you support any of them, then you’re no better than the Vichy French who supported Hitler. SF Pride should be ashamed for allowing the bullying of Grand Marshalls who the community voted for instead of taking responsibility for the safety and well being of the people who participate.

    And allowing Ed Lee, Mark Leno and Wiener to receive the honor of our community is the weak point that the enemies of our community who seek our demise exploit as they ruin our lives.

    Like it or not, the disabled and the homeless are part of our community and until we take care of them, then we have NOTHING to be proud of. I’m embarrassed by my former community but not surprised. Until we get honest we are as bad as the rest of them. Love hasn’t healed the wounds of the homeless. And its about as cynical to march around with that banner as it is when the Republicans send their thoughts and prayers. Actions heal. And only actions will solve our problems. SF Act Up should be ashamed and disbanded. The aforementioned should be drummed out of office and when the Mark Lenos show their true colors by supporting the fakes like Wiener, we have a duty to not only boo but to VOTE them out.

    You may not like the naked guys, you may not like the homeless but they are part of us. If you have been lucky enough to not be on the receiving end of the discrimination-legislation of the current government, not been removed from your home unlawfully like me, had the shit beat out of you or been shot, try helping the ones who have instead of sitting their patting yourself on the back after you tweet #LoveHeals . Love without action is nothing but poetry, pleasant enough but not enough.

    Until we are a real community, we have nothing to be proud of. #NoJusticeNoPride

  35. I support my LGBTQIA2-S community members being able to heal and to celebrate our pride without fear. Because courage takes many forms – I choose not to define it narrowly or only through my eyes. I honor the courage expressed by those of us who live this life with the deepest forms of oppression. I also stand by them as it is within my heart to embrace that my comfort comes as part of my privilege. I am statistically safer than my community members who are expressing their lived experiences and concerns. Black Transwomen have a life expectancy of 35 years due to the systemic targeting of black transwomen for police abuse and multiple violent forms of oppression (including racism, classism and transphobia) leveled at them. Last year the reality was so glaring that the UN stepped in to cite the US for human rights violations for police brutality. So, when my trans sisters share that they do not feel safe and have some suggestions for increased security – they are speaking from a battered position that they would rather not be placed or live in. They are not asking you not to attend – they are explaining why they will not.

    Thankfully pride needn’t be celebrated one way or in one place! Throughout the Bay, today, many people chose to celebrate pride in their neighborhoods – not out of fear – but out of a treasured need to form a deeper connection with others. I witnessed an beautifully healing conversation among a group of QTPOC that we are planning to continue weekly. Perhaps, courage also looks like choosing to build relationship that will last past this one day. Healing can take place in many ways and might happen in a massive crowd or unfold among a few dedicated folks.

    Kin

  36. Oh and the sister and husband who were attacked and the chain saw guy from 2013 and the robbery and beating of a 28 year old woman. This year so far no news reports of that kind.

  37. Give me a f*cking break. Because of Orlando and all the lunatics that have been threatening to go to other pride events and do the same thing, It only makes sense to increase security. I don’t understand why certain groups always have to make it all about them. This is simply to protect the lives of all of the attendees. If you want to choose not to go, then stay home, but don’t make this about something it’s NOT.

  38. In many pride celebrations throughout the nation, the community led security details provide safe haven and protection along with a limited police presence in many festival gatherings. If we are to increase security – let us do so across the board. Police are vulnerable to the same oppressive mentality that any other profession falls prey to. However, not every profession includes a license to kill. Friendly fire is now being counted in the rounds fired at the innocent victims in Orlando. The need to present a heavily armed presence clearly changes the loving energy that Pride represents. If we are increasing the police/governmental agency presence – we should also wisely increase the community security presence – individuals who value a non-lethal approach to conflict. It is a reasonable request.

  39. As TLGBQIA2-S people, we are engaged in a battle to be respected as humans and to be afforded the same rights as people in our cisgender heterosexual community. The readily acknowledged best practice to achieve equity is to acknowledge and address the disparities and voiced concerns from the bottom of the privilege ladder to the top. I understand and myself have fallen prey to the allure of apology politics – espousing fair treatment to embrace/clutch the few instances of power/privilege that I maintain. Simply put, we must fight against the privileged, impassioned desire to ignore the voices of the violently oppressed with all of the visceral unpleasantries that such an acknowledgement of our role in said trauma induces. When we deny the valid voices/lived experiences of these 3 groups to punish them for expressing their pain, we are encouraging oppression. We bind ourselves to the unwise/unhealthy position of being tangentially committed to our personal status quo even if it means denying others. We should at the very least extend respect – rather than deride.

    The issue in this instance is one of PRIVILEGED PERSPECTIVE vs THE LIVED EXPERIENCE of a VIOLENTLY OPPRESSED GROUP. Often those outside of the experience of a violently oppressed group seek a superficial gesture of feigned unity in an effort to assuage their/our privileged feelings of guilt (Look up white guilt – expand it to include all forms of privilege – – which is layered for some of us – many forms of guilt projection cross the threshold of whiteness to include cis-ness and hetero-normalness – my word). In our rush to participate in events that do not center the concerns of the most oppressed among us – I cannot in good conscience support any group that turns a deaf ear or blind eye to the needs of the most vulnerable among us. Period.
    I stand with the wise and sadly ignored voices and concerns of my Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex commUNITY.

  40. Considering that there was friendly fire, as in, new events details have come to light that police may have shot and killed people inside Pulse, they def felt abused that night.

  41. ” I offer my sincere respect for their courage to speak out and risk being maligned and punished for doing so.”

    Courage would have also been sucking it up for half a day, considering it’s 2 weeks after one of the worst terror incidents on our soil, and 1 week after an incident was stopped at LA Pride. The Orland o victims were people of color as well.

  42. While the need for security may be reasonable, it’s so telling how they turn it into an opportunity to keep the homeless out. This is the same community that voted for the No Sit-Lie Law after all.

  43. We’ll have to talk to the survivors from the Pulse Night club. This was a community of color. Were they mad when the police arrived? I think that they wanted the police to come. I don’t know if they felt abused and alienated by police presence that night.

  44. I agree…let them sit at home and pout while SF Pride gives their awards to other groups who would appreciate them, like a Latino group. Also, choose another Grand Marshal. BLM is nothing but ungrateful, bigoted racists.

  45. The more I think about it, the more it seems like a publicity stunt.

    Even without the increased security, Pride like any event of it’s size, has had a police presence. It’s a City permitted pride event, not a protest. Clearly they knew that when they signed on.

    What they’re trying to do is force their issue on a community that is far from starved for issues and struggles.

  46. That is a fantastic program, but clearly not enough, evidenced by the shooting last year and the crazy increased violence that led to the end of pink saturday at least in its pre-2015 form.

  47. Great question, Adam. For decades, at each SF Pride, large numbers of community members have been trained to be security providers. Many pride groups literally have people who are waitlisted to help out. Sometimes, the people volunteering are off-duty LGBTQ security guards and community recognized LGBTQ off-duty police officers. The request being made is for increased community security.

    I appreciate the suggestion of lockers provided free of charge for celebrants to place their items within. I believe that was your suggestion, correct?

  48. And what if we didn’t increase security and something did happen like Orlando, Boston LA. we would rightfully ask where was security. Oh we didn’t increase security because some groups felt unsafe.

  49. As an Elder-in-Training, I have learned that when a group of people who have clearly had a long history of being targeted for violent oppression and discrimination speak up – the chance to check my privilege always looms near. It can be an opportunity for me to listen and gain perspective from someone whose truths appear to be different than mine or it could be an occasion for me to transfer my own pained feelings by deriding the oppressed. I find that each time that I exercise the former – my resistance to evolve lessens and my innate human ability to be a wisely compassionate individual expands. I encourage us to stand with the members of historically oppressed communities and I offer my sincere respect for their courage to speak out and risk being maligned and punished for doing so.

  50. Unfortunately, some become homeless due to mental illness and it is usually the mentally ill homeless that commit acts of violence. Don’t paint all homeless with the acts of the untreated mentally ill — and if the homeless you say killed a woman are mentally ill, we have failed them by not giving them treatment. It is a disgrace that this country does not give good care to the mentally ill . . . unless they are rich.

    and if these homeless alleged killers are put in prision, they won’t get treatment, they’ll get worse. It used to be the mentally ill sent to prison at least got some treatment but not anymore. Shame on us all for allowing people who need help to not receive it.

  51. You don’t seem to understand that if you tell a homeless LGTB person they can’t bring their stuff to PRIDE you are banning those persons from participating in PRIDE. Asking homeless LGTB (LGBT? I’m losing track, sorry) to give up their sleeping stuff, maybe cardboard, a tent, so they can go to a parade is a steep burden that the housed do not pay.

    The folks standing up and refusing to participate in PRIDE are doing so as advocates, reminding the rest of us of deeply vulnerable populations who don’t have much and seeing a lot of LGBT’s showing PRIDE could be quite meaningfull, revive lost faith a little bit.

    I am glad there will be good security at PRIDE but I think there could have been a way to include the homeless while protecting their stuff. Sometimes a worn out backpack is all a homeless person has and losing it is a loss those of us who have never been homeless don’t really understand.

  52. Not sure I understand all the reasoning for objecting to increased security. If homeless people make up a percentage of the LGBT community, and of course they do for this area has a shameful level of homelessness, then banning shopping carts, which are lifelines for many homeless people, effectively bans homeless LGBT from PRIDE. I suspect homeless LGBT humans need PRIDE more than most.

    It’s a hard call but if people don’t start standing up to the increasing militarization in this society, we’ll get more and more militarization.

    I am not LGBT or homeless but I don’t own a car. And I use a shopping cart much of the time. I was planning to go to SF tomorrow to see some of the PRIDE parade, with my cart. I am disabled and can’t carry anything and I need to carry stuff and if I decide to do any shopping, I need the cart to get my food home. So no PRIDE for me tomorrow. I’ll be okay missing it but for homeless, isolated LGBT people, esp. younger ones, effectively asking them to choose giving up their belongings (hence the cart and need for bringing in stuff) or going to PRIDE, . . .that’s a tough, unjust choice.

    I wonder if, with better planning, there could have been a kind of valet storage for people’s stuff. We valet park cars, why not valet park carts for the poorest and isolated among us? Just a thought. It is too late for this PRIDE.

    does SF provide reasonably sized storage lockers for the homeless? Somehow, I doubt it.

  53. It’s a sad day in american history when someone that supports a group like BLM (a domestic terrorist group) wins an award for spreading hate against police and all because they and their race can’t act civilized but instead act like a bunch of ignorant entitled savages.

  54. No, I dont know. Like many, I think, I see a crazy protest against security that seems reasonable, not just because Orlando and LA but also because of the shooting at pride last year, I remember sitting in rush hour traffic because the bridge was blocked and I see a constant stream of homeless people doing dugs on the street next to condos no middle class person could afford.

  55. Mike, Milesius, Adam, No one is sitting at home and pouting. These orgs and people are out there every single day working to keep our communities safer. Learn more about the orgs before you start judging them as drama queens. You have no idea how these folks hold up and nourish the most vulnerable and targeted in our communities.

  56. Considering the violence from straights that has plagued gay events in SF for many years, these new security measures are long overdue. If someone is unhappy that the gay community is being pro-active in protecting itself from further violence, then let them sit at home and pout.

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