On Saturday, June 17, 2017, multiple Black trans and queer folks with a handful of allies staged a silent protest at the Columbus, Ohio Pride Festival, placing themselves in a long history of Pride disruptions. The intent was to disrupt the parade route for seven minutes, symbolic of each shot that murdered Philando Castile in Minnesota–yet another police murder of an unarmed Black person in the US that would go unanswered for by its department.
In addition to protesting the recent acquittal of the officer responsible for Castile’s death, protesters took the street in order to resist the constant lack of safety and respect for Black and Brown folks within the LGBTQIA movement, to resist the silence regarding the murders of Trans Women of Color, and to resist the flagrant violence of Columbus’ police force.
The events that followed proved not only the racism and transphobia of the Columbus Police, but the same among the white community within the larger LGBTQIA struggle.
Within moments of taking the street, Columbus PD moved on the protesters in force, attacking them with bicycles, mace, and eventually throwing multiple people to the ground. Of the protesters attacked, four of the Black people present–now known as the #BlackPride4–were taken into custody. Wriply Bennet, Deandre Miles, Ashley Braxton, and Kendall Denton are currently facing misdemeanors, with Deandre also facing a felony aggravated robbery charge. All this was done to the tune of cheering white people, and a parade route that literally continued on as Black trans and queer folks were met with the opposite of Pride’s intention: The violent presence of state repression within trans and queer spaces.
In many ways, the brutal response to protesters that day proved the need for their presence at the festival in the first place. It showed the reliance of white cis people on police, when faced with the uncomfortable truths that do not apply to them regularly. It showed how far Pride has moved away from its origin, an origin intended to put an end to state power over trans and queer people. It showed the continued erasure of the Black and Brown trans and queer history that has given so many white cis gay people so much comfort, and has inspired the struggles the LGBTQIA community at large seeks to claim for its own.
The BTGNC Collective moves in solidarity with the #BlackPride4, and echoes their story, their strength, and their demands:
- The charges against each member of the #BlackPride4 must be dropped. Under no circumstances should it ever be considered criminal to advocate for the lives of others. Those charged were targeted for a truth that they had every right to tell.
- Stonewall Columbus needs to hold themselves accountable. As an organization that bears the title of a trans and queer riot against police violence, the complacency of Stonewall Columbus in the aggression towards Black trans and queer people in the act of protest is a contradiction. Stonewall Columbus should take this time to support the #BlackPride4 in all future resistance to state suppression, and ensure that police no longer play a role in Columbus pride.
- There needs to be an internal affairs investigation of the Columbus Police Department for the excessive force used against the protesters and the #BlackPride4. The videos of the attack on the protesters show that the Columbus PD made choices to endanger the safety of folks it claims to protect. This act of needless aggression needs to be answered for by the department itself, as well the officers who were present that day.
It is important that the LGBTQIA community as a whole move away from the idea that police at pride make it a safe place to be–especially for Black and Brown folk who attend. The preservation of the lives and truths of marginalized people deserves to be discussed and fought for, openly, unapologetically, and without retaliation from the state. It is for these reasons, and others, that we as the BTGNC Collective of Chicago are in solidarity with the #BlackPride4.
Those inside and outside of our community who wish to learn more and support further can do so here.
#BlackPride4 #NoJusticeNoPride #BlackOutPride