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THE STONEWALL REBELLION LIVES
Contingents of Queers Against War, Racism, and State Repression March in Pride Parades Across the Country
by Su Docekal and Bob Schwartz
"I've been alienated by the Abercrombie & Fitch pride-is-buying-power-trend, but things are looking up," declared Rhyd, Seattle's self-described anarchystfag, as he surveyed his city's noisy, rowdy and diverse antiwar contingent of some 250 people.
From Seattle to New York, Pride Parade contingents were fielded by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer folk and straight allies to protest US war abroad and racist profiling of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians and attacks on civil liberties at home. Warmly received, and joined by some onlookers, the contingents proved that LGBTQ activism is alive and well.
In Chicago, It's "Stop the Hate, Stop the Fear"
Chicago's anti-war contingent in the June 30 Pride parade, numbering about 75 and organized by the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, sought to identify GLBT people with the scapegoating now being directed at Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians.
"As Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered people we know what it's like to be attacked on the streets by perfect strangers, simply for being who we are," read the 7,000 handbills passed out at the parade and at the African-American Gay Pride event that evening. We know what it's like "to have our government target us for 'legal' discrimination and abuse to have our houses of worship vandalized and destroyed by those who hate us."
Large banners proclaimed, "Defend Civil Rights at Home, No 'Collateral Damage' Abroad, Stop This War!" and "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered People & Allies In SOLIDARITY with Arabs, Muslims, South Asians Against Racial Profiling." Three other banners carried by allied activists defended Mumia abu-Jamal, slammed patriarchy and war. Chants rang out: "Stop the Hate, Stop the Fear, Immigrants Are Welcome Here," and "Arabs and Muslims Under Attack, What Do We Do? Act Up, Fight Back," were among them.
CABN is a member of the city-wide Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, and has been involved in numerous demonstrations to oppose the war in Afghanistan, defend "detained" immigrants and support to the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Participating organizations numbered about 15 and included Chicago A.N.S.W.E.R. [Act Now to Stop War and End Racism], Refuse & Resist, International Socialist Organization, Palestine Aid Society, the Green Party, Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, Students Against Sweatshops, October 22nd Coalition, Chicago Comiittee to Free Mumia abu-Jamal, the Revolutionary Communist Party and Youth Brigade, the latter being a drum corps headquartered in a public housing project.
Seattle "Takes no Pride in War"
In Seattle, a bright pink and black banner that read "We Take No Pride in War" led off the contingent, one of the largest in the parade, also on June 30.
"1, 2, 3, 4, We Don't Want Your Racist War; 5,6,7,8, Go Home and Masturbate," elicited a roar of approval from the crowd. "Pussy Power, Not Bush Power," and "No Blood for Oil" were also popular. The protest was seen as a natural outgrowth of earlier queer efforts to support Somali and Arab immigrants who have been targeted by federal investigators, and participation in actions against the Bush war machine. "So it was natural that we'd want that voice heard at our own pride celebration," said one organizer from Radical Women.
Thousands of parade spectators took flyers explaining why GLBT people are organizing against war and defending immigrants.
Organizations endorsing the action included Dyke Community Activists, Pride at Work-Seattle, Seattle Women's Action Network, Earl Grey is Dead [an anarchist poetry magazine], Freedom Socialist Party, International Socialist Organization, the Not in Our Name Project, Refuse and Resist-Seattle, and Palestinian Solidarity Committee.
"US Out of the Middle East" is Portland Chant
In Portland, Oregon, the "Out, Loud, and Proud Against the War" contingent of about 30, was one of the few political groups in the parade on June 16. Banners proclaimed "Stop Terrorist Witchunts," and "Stonewall was a Riot; Now We Need a Revolution" as participants chanted "We Want Justice, We Want Peace; U.S. Out of the Middle East." Picket signs were carried and strapped to several strollers featuring slogans such as "No forced Marriage for Women on Welfare" and "Freedom to Marry for Same-Sex Couples."
Eduardo Martinez-Zapata, a Chicano socialist who came with his children noted, "It is invigorating to see the solidarity between people of color, feminists, veterans, sexual minorities and straights out here defending the gay community and to end this war on all of us."
Participating groups included Portland Peaceful Response, the local antiwar coalition; Radical Women; War Tax Resisters; Freedom Socialist Party; and Northwest Veterans for Peace.
And in San Francisco, and New York.
San Francisco fielded a Pride parade contingent of about 30 people organized by Pride at Work. Affiliated with the AFL-CIO, Pride at Work is the queer caucus of the national labor federation. "Maybe GLBT folk can prod the federation into taking an antiwar stance. For now the AFL-CIO is letting the same government that has made it hell for workers in the United States, chart its course in the so-called War on Terror," said Tina Beacock, A PAW member marching in Chicago.
In New York on June 23, there were several antiwar groups in the parade including the International Action Center, which includes the Workers World Party, carrying a banner declaring "No Pride in Occupation." Radical Women marched, as did a group whose name means "Black Laundry" in English that carried signs in Hebrew and English denouncing Israel's attacks on Palestinians. [This group was also represented in the Tel Aviv GLBT parade with the same message.]
At the New York rally, veteran activist Leslie Feinberg spoke. A transgender lesbian and an editor of the Workers World newspaper, she identified herself as a socialist revolutionary, and commended the parade organizers for having the courage to invite her to speak in NY given the reactionary climate of the time.
"We have to put war, racism, and attacks on civil liberties on our movement agenda," said Feinberg. To back war and reaction would be a grave error, she said. "It emboldens the most conservative, reactionary currents; demoralizes and isolates the most progressive. The movement gives its proxy to the same reactionary rulers who oppress its ranks."
Feinberg conterposed to this defeatest strategy followed today by LGBT groups like the Human Rights Campaign [HRC], the gay liberationists ignited by Stonewall. "The left wing of the gay movement stood up for the Vietnamese against the Pentagon war. We fought Cointelpro, movement sabotage by the FBI. We defended the Black Panthers . . .and women's liberation movement from murderous state attacks. This expression of unity won tremendous respect and solidarity with our movement from struggling peoples here and around the world," she asserted.
Speaking at the Seattle rally, Radical Women member Christina Lopez sounded a similar note on the current struggle. Recognizing the then upcoming Independence Day, Lopez challenged her audience to ignore the dummed down patriotism of Ashcroft, Bush and the jingoist Democrats and instead, "Celebrate what the Fourth of July really stands for: a revolution that won freedom of speech, the right to assemble, and the right to trial by a jury of peers. It took a second revolution, the Civil War, to end slavery. And its going to take a third revolution to win a world where there is joy and peace, where everyone has a home and enough to eat and we are free to love whom we choose."
The fact that these contingents popped up independently in parades across the country shows the depth of queer anger at where this country is headed. Young people, fed up with the growing presence of corporate floats and beer trucks on pride day, are bringing the spirit of Stonewall back. "I always wondered why mainstream gays settled for 'Queer as capitalism will let us be Folk.'" said Rhyd from Seattle, "I get kinda angry."
Is the national gay leadership listening?
Su Docekal is a member of Radical Women and Freedom Socialist Party, living in Seattle.
Bob Schwartz is active with Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, a gay liberation organization; living in Chicago.
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