The LGBTQ community celebrates Pride to commemorate June 28, 1969, when bar-goers at the Stonewall Inn fought against homophobic and transphobic police harassment. The riots lasted for five consecutive days, and eventually birthed an activist movement still evolving today. Once a rebellious, rainbow-coated "don't tread on me" flag, modern-day Pride seems more like a snakeskin belt — something that can be bought and sold rather than an act of resistance.
The queer activist group No Justice, No Pride (NJNP) is an ad-hoc coalition against Capital Pride in Washington DC founded earlier this year. In February, Drew Ambrogi made a Facebook event for a counter-demonstration, which he called "corporatized" and "white washed." Needless to say, it got a ton of attention and what started as grassroots organizing online quickly turned into a movement.
On the day of the parade, members of NJNP linked arms in front of the procession of floats and created a blockade meant as a fuck-you to the LGBTQ establishment. The act was punk, political and had a kind of Stonewall spirit. The parade had to be re-routed around their demonstration, which was only a partial victory for NJNP. They want to be heard, not ignored.
VICE Impact spoke with Emmelia Talarico, a lead organizer with NJNP, who identifies as a trans woman of color, to learn more about what LGBTQ youth activism really looks like.
Vice Impact: How many people participated in the demonstration or are a part of the organization?
Emmelia Talarico: No Justice, No Pride was more of a campaign. Tons of people from different groups - including Black Lives Matter DC, BYP 100, Mijente, The Future Is Feminist, Resist This, and a bunch of others - came together to support it. I'd say we had at least 500 people who made our actions possible.
How did you come up with the idea for the protest?
The idea for the protest had always been lingering when we started talking about resisting Capital Pride. But once we started engaging with Capital Pride's leadership, and realized they had no interest in changing their policies, we knew we'd need to do more to get their attention and keep the pressure up. We were also inspired by the actions of Black Lives Matter Toronto and Trans Queer Pueblo in Phoenix, as well as what we were able to get accomplished at DisruptJ20.
We wanted to do something that would not only get Capital Pride's attention but also start conversations within the LGBTQ community about the need for folks to recognize that the LGBTQ establishment is leaving marginalized folks, particularly queer and trans people of color, behind.
What was your group trying to accomplish from the protest during the parade?
We wanted to get Capital Pride to agree to our demands. We wanted them to cut ties with some of their most problematic corporate sponsors, particularly Wells Fargo, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. We also wanted them to recognize that a Pride parade that claims to embrace the full diversity of the LGBTQ2S community can't be a Pride that celebrates cops.
We hadn't had any success speaking to them before the parade. We thought we'd put the pressure on by holding up the parade, thinking they'd be willing to commit to working with us in the interest of letting the parade continue. We're really surprised by the degree to which they continue to ignore us -- as if these issues will go away. One of their board members even told me when I asked for them that he doesn't "negotiate with terrorists."
More broadly though, we wanted to create a galvanizing moment for our community. A kind of wake up call in which folks at the parade had no choice but to consider whether they felt that our voices have a place within the LGBT community - whether they really want to embrace and support queer and trans folks of color, two-spirit Native folks, and folks with a broader, more inclusive vision of liberation.
What was the response to the protest? Were people supportive or critical of the interruption?
Lots of people were supportive. I think a lot of people have been waiting for something like this to happen. Pride has gotten so bland over the years, and the folks making decisions at Capital Pride have gotten so out of touch with the actual community as they pursue big, glamorous, expensive celebrations.
But lots of people were nasty too. People threw trash and bottles at us. I was punched and shoved. The Wells Fargo security guards tried to rush through the human chain of de-escalators surrounding our blockade. People used racial slurs, told us the parade wasn't "for us," and told us to be "respectful."
How has Pride drifted from its original themes of activism and resistance?
In DC, Capital Pride has drifted in every way you can think of. There was a Lockheed Martin float in the parade that had a big model of a warplane on it. Pride started as a commemoration of visionary trans women of color taking a stand against state violence. Today, Pride celebrates the very entities that continue to perpetuate violence against our communities.
What kind of influence do companies have on Pride?
We don't think the influence is positive. Sure, they bring in money, but that money doesn't support our communities. More often than not, these corporations are taking more money from trans and queer communities than what they are giving back. A movement led by corporations will never allow us to get free. Corporations don't do things selflessly - everything has terms and conditions. And I frankly don't buy the fact that these corporations can care about some of us while contributing to the marginalization of the rest of us. That's not what allyship looks like.
How should brands show their support for the LGBTQ people and participate in Pride without co-opting the movement?
Be real with us. Look at the impact your "brand" has on our community before you paint your logo in rainbow colors for a month and declare yourself an ally.
How can people get involved or support your cause?
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.