LGBT+ Pride marches return to radical roots to support Black Lives Matter

Pride is set to return to its radical protest roots this weekend, with a small number of pared-down parades supporting Black Lives Matter and an LGBT+ community hit hard by global coronavirus lockdowns, that have forced hundreds of marches to be cancelled.

Parades and rallies are planned in London, New York, Berlin, and Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, with many organisers pledging support for the Black community, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.

Other smaller, more informal events are scheduled to mark Pride season this year, but more than 450 marches have been called off, due to coronavirus curbs banning mass gatherings.

Organisers have said strict social distancing rules must be followed at parades, with attendees asked to wear face masks and carry hand-sanitiser.

In London, former members of the Gay Liberation Front, a 1970s activist group, will mark the 50th anniversary of the organisation on Saturday, by walking the same route as London’s cancelled annual Pride parade.

“We are reclaiming Pride with political demands for LGBT+ human rights,” said veteran LGBT+ activist Peter Tatchell, who helped organise Britain’s first Pride march in 1972.

“At this particular moment, we feel it’s very important to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Black LGBT+ people,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

London will also host a Black Trans Lives Matter march, ending at Downing Street, home to Britain’s prime minister.

The organisers said on Instagram that the event was in response to “the injustices that trans+ people face daily, all over the world”.

In New York, thousands of people are expected to attend Sunday’s Queer Liberation March, organised by the Reclaim Pride Coalition.

The group, which held its first march last year, was formed to protest the commercialisation of the city’s official Pride parade, which is usually attended by millions of people.

Organisers had originally planned to conduct the event online due to the coronavirus, but reversed the decision due to global protests against police brutality and racism in the wake of Floyd’s death.

“There needs to be the element of people in the streets and popular revolt and outrage,” Reclaim Pride Coalition co-founder, Natalie James, said.

“There’s not really a substitute for it.”

Pride marches around the world are also drawing attention to the pressures faced by the LGBT+ community under lockdowns imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19, with an increase in reports of mental health problems and domestic abuse.

Under the motto ‘Save Our Pride, Save Our Community’, hundreds of Berliners will take to the streets of the German capital on Saturday “to face discrimination against LGBTIQ people where it happens”, organisers said.

“And that is the public space of the street,” said Wolfgang Beyer, one of the organisers.

“We are in solidarity with the virtual demonstrations, but I think that online protests alone are ineffective.”

The Dyke* March Berlin, an independent organisation, will also join the march as a bloc to highlight how the lesbian community in particular has been affected by the pandemic.

“All our venues had to close, and we don’t know how much of the already weak lesbian infrastructure will survive, because we’re the weakest of the weak,” co-organiser Manuela Kay said.

There has been anger and tension in some countries where lockdowns have prevented annual Pride parades.

In the Philippine capital, Manila, several LGBT+ activists were arrested after attempting to hold a rally on Friday.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, the US Embassy’s decision to fly the rainbow flag to support Pride month irked the Kremlin this week.

And in Israel, authorities warned of far-right groups seeking to infiltrate planned Pride marches, following the discovery of a pamphlet advising demonstrators how to behave, as if they were members of the LGBT+ community.

In Taiwan, which hosts East Asia’s largest Pride march every October, a small rally has been planned for Sunday, to show solidarity with LGBT+ communities still living under lockdown.

“We have been relatively safe in Taiwan,” said Yang Chih-chun, president of the non-profit Taiwan Gay Sports and Taiwan Gay Development Movement Association, the rally’s organiser.

“This is more of a symbolic gathering to get together to celebrate love.”

– Hugo Greenhalgh, @hugo_greenhalgh, Matthew Lavietes @mattlavietes, Beh Lih Yi @BehLihYi and Enrique Anarte @enriqueanarte in Berlin – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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