There were plenty of parties, parades and pink feather boas on display this weekend as cities across the country hosted gay pride events, but organizers weren’t just interested in a celebration: They were ready for a battle.
In New York City’s landmark gay pride parade Sunday, the LGBTQ community came out in full force bearing signs that listed all the injustices they’re confronting, from discrimination in schools to gun violence.
In Cincinnati, an openly gay pastor joined an event led by Black Lives Matter protesters who returned the favor by attending the city’s Gay Pride Parade.
In downtown Minneapolis, demonstrators protesting the police shooting of Philando Castile disrupted the Twin Cities Pride Parade just just minutes after it began. About 200 protesters marched down Hennepin Avenue and staged a “die-in.”
Protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace, no pride in police,” and carried “Justice for Philando” and “Black Lives Matter” signs. There were no arrests.
Parade organizers had invited police to participate after initially asking them to minimize their participation due to tensions over a jury’s recent acquittal of a Minnesota officer who fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop last year.But Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, who is the city’s first openly gay police chief, called that decision “divisive.”
In San Francisco, marchers took aim at President Trump’s policies, especially his efforts to ramp up deportations against the state’s undocumented immigrants.
“(The parade) has more meaning than it ever had just because (Trump) is someone who wants to shut it down,” said Talia Rizzo, who watched the parade while cuddling with her girlfriend. “I feel like everyone wants to rise above and have more pride than they’ve ever had.”
The theme of resistance was crystallized in anti-Trump/Pence chants, specifically on the issue of immigration. The crowd chanted, “No ban, no wall, the Trump regime has to fall!”
“Trump represents separation — Pride is about bringing people together,” said Mario Lopez, 39, who lives in Arizona but is originally from Mexico. He added that if groups are being targeted, it’s everyone’s job to speak up.
Under Trump, he said, anti-immigration rhetoric has become normalized and people feel more empowered to target immigrants. But seeing the anti-Trump, pro immigration chants and signs helps, he said. “It feels better that people are speaking their minds about it and bringing it out because most people just tend to ignore it.”
Gay pride events have evolved over the years from small, hidden gatherings to citywide festivals that are taking on a growing list of problems facing their community and other minority groups.
In New York City, that was seen in the laundry list of issues championed by each passing group of marchers. One group walked with a “Gays Against Guns” banner. Another group carried signs that read “Resist” with different challenges written underneath, including profiling of transgender people.
One group of marchers dressed all in white and carried placards bearing an image and biography of victims killed in the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
In Cincinnati, the Rev. David Meredith, the openly gay pastor of Clifton United Methodist Church, joined Black Lives Matter on Friday to protest the second mistrial of former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. He had been charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose during a July 2015 traffic stop.
On Saturday, BLM members showed their appreciation by joining Meredith at the city’s gay pride parade.
“My faith compels me to care about everyone who is marginalized and everyone who is left at the side of the road,” Meredith said.
In other pockets of the country, the events were more straight-forward with members of the LGBTQ community celebrating how far their movement has come in historically antagonistic places.
Nancy VanReece, the first openly gay woman elected to public office in Nashville when she joined the city’s Metro Council, delivered a speech before the Nashville Pride Festival where she marveled at how much the event had grown. What used to be a small smattering of people in a hidden corner of Centennial Park has now grown to a massive parade including major corporations and government institutions.
“It was pretty amazing. We were unable to attend until probably 10 years later,” VanReece said. “But the fact it was there was amazing confirmation that no matter how alone you may feel in any circumstance, there are other people around who can benefit from your work.”
Contributing: Rachel Sandler, USA TODAY; Bill Canacci of the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Mark Curnutte of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Nate Rau of the Tennessean; Associated Press.