A Thousand Flowers understands at least 5 people have been arrested at Glasgow Pride. The decision by organisers to invite Police Scotland to lead the march was always going to attract controversy, given Pride has its origins in the Stonewall riots which were a response to police brutality, and the behaviour of the Polis today was nothing short of astounding.
[CONTENT NOTE: images of police violence]
Before the march had even started, two members of the IWW were arrested, apparently for carrying a banner which read “These Faggots Fight Fascists.” This week, Heather Heyer, an IWW member, was murdered in Charlottesville in the US, fighting fascists. For Police Scotland to come to Pride and target members of our community like this is deeply shameful.
As the march set off, a small but peaceful group of demonstrators held signs opposing the Police (according to everyone who made it on time, I was late due to make-up issues, as is customary). I did however witness completely needless brutally from the Police in an attempt to shut down those opposing them. One source reported a Pride Glasgow steward instantly tried to rip their banner (as you do?) and that one of those detained had blue hands due to the way in which they were held.
In a separate incident, Ebrima Kalleh, the convener of LGBT Unity was stopped and searched for “wearing a cagoule”. It was raining, it is Glasgow, there were people handing out BOXES WORTH of cagoules.
The protest against police leading the march was forceably broken up within minutes and most of the thousands of attendees today would have been unaware of what happened. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter or that we don’t need to keep highlighting what Pride Glasgow and many Pride events are slowly becoming.
Aside from the Polis being atrocious, there was all the usual companies punting their wares to contend with. Today was busy, as it now is every year, which actually reduced the saturation of corporate shit and I couldn’t help laughing when a group from a bank (who shall remain nameless coz am no a grass) joined in chants about putting pride before profit and hating the Tories but the amount of plugs for yer favourite bank/bar/armed wing of the state suggests we need to keep reminding ourselves of where we’ve came from and how far we still have to go.
An ever huger chunk of the march is just people, out with their partners, friends and families to stand proud together and the power of those people on the streets was as amazing today as ever. Pride exists for this. And it still makes me greet every single time I see it now, compared to the few hundred people standing in a Square to be gawked at, as I remember Pride in Glasgow being 15 years ago. Of course, I was far more interested in getting
anorak cagoule-esque photos of politicians and random hacks.
But I’m not going to pretend there isn’t loads wrong with Pride Glasgow and that the police being THE MAIN THING didn’t make this year more than uncomfortable. This blog is no stranger to prattling on about the commercialisation and militarisation of Pride. The choice to charge entry for the Pride Glasgow “main event” is something we’ve long opposed and this year, tickets for today’s event “sold out”, yet mysteriously entry could still be gained by buying a more expensive wristband for £15 to gain access both days. Rather than making more Saturday tickets available, accessibility to the event was restricted for those who can’t afford it, those most likely to have to leave making a decision about whether to go until the last minute, those who don’t have the luxury of financial planning. But who wants them at your festival when you can get both more capital per head by upping the entry fee? “What have they spent today to make you feel proud?” as the song probably goes.
The reliance on corporate sponsors for the paid “main event” means far too much of the march now also revolves around branded content about how everyone is equally free to BUY THIS STUFF, being delivered to passers by, often by unpaid employees. Instead of being a celebration of our resistance and community, Pride Glasgow runs the risk of becoming a day many people work for nothing, telling others their boss pure loves the gays. If you’re gonnae sell your soul to capitalism, remember the golden rule of capitalism: GET PAID FOR YOUR WORK. The national minimum wage is £7.50 for over 25s, so why not ask for a salary the next time you wear a T-Shirt with a corporate logo on it all day while carrying an advert?
If you want to march with people at your work, by all means join the union. There are answers to these questions if we make them happen.
Centring the Police in proceedings is a step beyond. We have to chose to be on the side of LGBT asylum seekers, sex workers and people of colour who’re routinely targeted by state violence. We want those who’ve been marginalised to be at the front of the march, at the centre of their own communities where they belong. Instead, we’re expected to cheerily wave at those responsible for and complicit in the violence that keeps people on the margins. No. Fucking. Way.
Pride Glasgow can chose to make money by bowing down to the corporate/polis agenda but if we want Pride to be more than a carnival of reaction wrapped in rainbows, we have to chose resistance. Thank fuck there was some resistance today.
A spokesperson for Free Pride, who were involved in the action against the Police led march and run a free alternative to Pride Glasgow told A Thousand Flowers,
Free Pride’s action at this year’s Pride parade was primarily in response to the decision to have the police lead the march. We wish to draw attention to the harmfulness of this decision which shows a disregard for migrant lives and LGBT people of colour.
Pride has its origins in protest against police brutality and anti-LGBT violence, particularly against people of colour and trans folk, and we believe it should remain a protest. In addition to this, the police service is a racist institution which serves to enact violence against LGBT+ people of colour and we condemn the decision to prioritise these institutions over the LGBT+ community. Corporate and police inclusion and centring within pride betrays its roots in protest and serves to uphold state violence against marginalised groups – we reject this pinkwashing and rewriting of history.
Free Pride prioritises community over corporations and see no reason to accept these revisions of history. We believe it is time to reclaim pride.
Remembering our history matters because it’s not JUST history, there’s the battle for gender recognition, access to decent health care for trans people, for an end to the detention, deportation and destitution inflicted on LGBT migrants, against all the state sanctioned violence being conducted against queer and trans people through the world, often with the help of those in charge here. We have a vicious Tory Government, headed by Theresa May, who as Home Secretary was directly responsible for the degrading, racist, homophobic and transphobic treatment of people who’ve committed no crime, there’s a lot to be fucking raging about – and it’s likely the Polis have had or will have a hand in most of it. That’s why I have absolutely no Pride in the police – who arrested 3 people for the crime of holding a sign they didn’t like, who arrested 2 anti fascists for being anti-fascists, who seem to have a habit of searching some “people wearing cagoules” more than others. Today, Police Scotland showed why they shouldn’t be welcome at a protest held in memory of a riot against the cops. This should not have happened and we can’t allow it to happen again.
But despite the rain, the wristband scammers, the cops – Pride was absolutely made for me personally, as it always is, by talking to complete strangers, by marching with people I’ll never meet again, by shouting nonsense in the rain, on a street with no-one on it, just because, surrounded by so many amazing, resilient, downright fucking fabulous people.
There is nothing quite like the sheer queer power of Pride but whether that power is harnessed to create a better society or misdirected to making us a walking advert will depend on whether we resist attempts to depoliticise Pride or whether we fight for our politics at every turn. We’ll be out on the streets and on the dancefloors, for as long as it takes to get the justice we can all be proud of.
The queer nation has no borders and it needs no cops.
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