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Protest at Minneapolis Pride challenges cop and corporate presence

By Sam Martinez and Daylon Prochaska |
June 25, 2019
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Protest at Minneapolis Pride parade challenges police, corporate presence.
Protest at Minneapolis Pride parade challenges police, corporate presence. (Photo by Brad Sigal)

Minneapolis, MN - For the third year in a row, the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar has held a protest during the downtown Minneapolis Pride parade, June 23, against the presence of cops, and contesting the corporatization of Pride.

The action itself had around 200 participants and enjoyed nearly universal participation from onlookers, as they joined in on the chants, and raised their fists in solidarity.

The planning began in April via a call to action and endorsement letter. Meetings were held weekly up until the day before the parade and endorsements came in up until the wee hours of the morning on the day of the protest. An art day and banner-making were held the week before to ensure that the slogans of “Pride for the people,” “Black Trans lives matter,” and “No cops at Pride” would be front and center. After final reviews of the route, the starting locations was announced a week in advance.

The day of the event, a lookout was assigned for the parade beginning and once the signal was given, protesters entered the streets to the chant of “Off of the sidewalks, and into the streets! Queer and Trans liberation now!” The protests cut off the corporate Pride parade with the help of a local marching band named Unlawful Assembly and with chants of “Stonewall means? Fight back!” and “At Stonewall, we fought the cops!” Autumn Lake, an organizer with the Anti-War Committee, led the off the chants.

Protesters gave out candy which bore a sticker with a link to http://bit.ly/NoCopsInPride. The website was designed by the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar (TCC4J) to get out the reason for the protest and history about the Stonewall Riots. It also covers the story trans BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) women who are the backbone of the LGBTQ+ movement and still today are victims of hate crimes which often go unsolved, like the murder of Marsha P. Johnson, one of the founders of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.

A coalition organizer gave an impassioned speech in which many protesters and parade goers cheered and raised their fists in solidarity. “50 years ago, Pride started when Black, brown and indigenous trans women said enough is enough, and fought back against the police who harassed, abused and murdered them. If you ignore the voices of people of color, femmes, trans folks, sex workers, immigrants, or any marginalized group when they are crying out for justice or demanding their basic human rights, if you ignore or try to silence those voices, then you are disrespecting everything that Pride stands for. Remember and honor those we have lost. And listen to, support, and defend those of us who are still here.”

When a reactionary flaunted his appreciation of the police and such state actors, the crowd and the participants shouted him down, which eventually required some police intervention, in order to protect the reactionary agitator - which, by the way, contradicts the promises of the Pride organizing committee that no cops would be present in the parade.

A die-in took place in front of the grandstand for the parade, where members of the TC Pride committee and people who paid money were seated. Protesters held the space by laying on their backs or kneeling for several minutes. The intention was to highlight the silence of TC Pride on the rise of violence on the transgender community. Before the die in, Loretta Van Pelt, from TCC4J, elaborated on the significance of the action, “A group called ACT UP used to do these in front of Congress and churches because they were ignoring people who were dying. And the Black Lives Matter movement have done these for years cuz we continue to be ignored - we’re dying in the streets every day and we continue to be ignored.”

21 Black Trans folks murdered this year

In the last year, at least 21 black trans folks have been killed, including Cathalina Christina James, Keisha Wells, Sasha Garden, Vontashia Bell, Dejanay Stanton, Shantee Tucker, Londonn Moore, Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier, Regina Denise Brown, Tydi Dansbury, Keanna Mattel, Dana Martin, Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato. Muhlaysia Booker, Michelle 'Tamika' Washington, Paris Cameron, Chynal Lindsey, Chanel Scurlock, Zoe Spears.

This number doesn’t include other queer and trans folks who suffer from national oppression like Johana ‘Joa’ Medina. She died after being denied medical treatment while in ICE custody. Layleen Polanco was found dead in her Rikers cell in New York. It also doesn’t inlcude the many other women like Aubrey Dameron of the Cherokee Nation who went missing from Grove, Oklahoma on March 9. Crimes against trans people often go unreported or underreported and unresolved in the U.S. and across the world.

Against ‘corporate’ Pride

As Pride became more and more of a cultural phenomenon, it also has become more and more corporate. As Pride has represented the acceptance of the LGBTQ community into the common society, Pride has also represented the continued commodification of LGBTQ identity, as nearly every corporation capitalizes on the opportunity to boast about their supposed acceptance of the community. The Target corporation, for example, was notably anti-gay in the past, when it was still acceptable and encouraged to be reactionary in such a way.

An organizer with the Anti-War Committee said, “Of the 118 contingents in this year's parade, about half are private businesses. Of those, roughly 38 are corporations – including Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, both of whom gave funding for Trump's militarized border wall, only pulling out after two years of pressure from grassroots activism. Why does Twin Cities Pride celebrate institutions that helped foot the bill for the death of Johana Medina Leon, the Salvadoran trans woman who died in ICE custody? Judging from Amy Klobuchar’s contingent, I guess queer Afghanis and Palestinians don’t deserve a spot at Pride - because voting to prolong the Patriot Act, voting known torturers to positions of power, and voting for every U.S. bombing and imperial war is queer now! Twin Cities Pride celebrates Wells Fargo, who sure queered predatory lending to Black and Latinx homeowners, leaving them destitute in the wake of the housing market crash that those lending practices created! Lyft and Delta Airlines both have parade contingents, because apparently it’s cool to be queer as long as you’re not a worker demanding your rights!”

Demands to the TC Pride organizers

Demands for the action included that the organization Twin Cities Pride honor the legacy and life of trans women of color, recognizing Pride as the byproduct of their resistance against police brutality and repression. This means making space for activist voices in the Pride parade and park by eliminating costs and restrictive selection processes. Make Pride more accessible for people with disabilities. Combat state violence with the total elimination of police and law enforcement at all of their events. This means no police in the Pride parade or park - including police in plain clothes. Traffic control should be moved away from the parade and the police shouldn’t delay the parade. TC Pride should divest of all corporations, as they promote the marginalization, exploitation and criminalization of marginalized communities. Don’t blame activists for delays caused by the police. Reorganize TC Pride leadership to be a majority of LGBTQ+ BIPOC, including people active in fighting current threats to the LGBTQ community who can resist these threats with the support of the community in the streets.

The protest was organized by a coalition of organizations, such as the AFSCME 2822, Anti-War Committee, Black Lives Matter Minnesota, Black Lives Matter Twin Cites Metro, Blue Lies Murder, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Freedom Road Socialist Organization – Twin Cities, Justice for Cordale Handy, Justice for Marcus Golden, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, Minnesota Women’s March, Native Lives Matter, Racial Justice Network, Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America, TIGERRS (Transgender, Intersex, Gender-Expansive Revolutionary Resources and Services), Welfare Rights Committee and Women’s Prison Book Project.

2017 and 2018 protests at Pride

The spark for protests at Twin Cities Pride parade protests began in 2017. During the summer, the acquittal of officer Jeronimo Yanez for the murder of Philando Castile caused the community and LGBTQ+ people to decry the injustice. After LGBTQ+ people cause an uproar about the police being allowed to march in the parade, TC Pride agreed that police would not be allowed – and reversed course almost immediately without consulting the affected community. TC Pride threw the concerns of communities of color and anti-police brutality organizations under the bus in favor of pleasing the police. To some, this didn’t come as a surprise. The prior year, nonprofits and DFL leaders tied to the city’s top politicians quelled a protest at Pride in the wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shootings.

In 2018, a protest was also held after the murder of Thurman Blevins by the Minneapolis Police Department on June 23, 2018, less than 24 hours before the parade. Since the initial protest, the TC Pride has refused a town hall meeting on the issue. They held a meeting that included police, which the community would not attend, misrepresented protesters’ intentions and actions in the media, and blamed TCC4J for the lifeless five-hour parade in 2018 - even though the protest only took 45 minutes (the real delay being caused by the police, who stopped the parade for traffic every few minutes). TC Pride did not reach out to protesters in 2019 until both TCC4J and TC Pride representatives were present at a Stonewall DFL [Minnesota’s Democrat party] meeting in late May.

The relationship between the Twin Cities Pride Committee and the community has been antagonistic at best. The 2017 protest was well-received by the community. In 2018, there was a public relations campaign and misinformation spread by TC Pride which made community members hostile towards the protest. This year’s protest held on the one-year mark since Thurman Blevins was killed was entitled “Taking Back Pride: Defending our Trans Family and Community!”

Mayor confronted

The protest culminated at the “Power to the People” stage tun by local queer/trans activist Rox Anderson. BIPOC performers and bands are exclusively at this stage. This year included a drum team that performed at memorial events for Jamar Clark. But a surprise appearance by Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frye was a special treat for TCC4J members. They confronted him about the settlement for Jamar’s families. To which the mayor replied, “I cannot comment.” It ended with the crowd chasing Frye out of the park yelling at him, “Cut that check for Jamar’s families! You protect killer cops! Get the fuck out of our Pride!” TCC4J will continue to hold those who protect racist killer cops accountable and defending our Trans family and community by fighting for community control of the police.

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