You may be familiar with the hook for today’s induction: after Pride Glasgow invited the Police to lead this year’s annual Pride march, 5 people were arrested following 2 separate incidents: 3 trans people were arrested for protesting about the fact police led the march and 2 people, one of them just 16, were arrested for carrying a banner reading “THESE FAGGOTS FIGHT FASCISTS”. That’s right – people were arrested and later charged, at Pride, for protesting at a protest and for “homophobia” against themselves, with the full support of the organisers. To labour a point because it matters: Pride began as a commemoration of the Stonewall riots against police brutality, bad language may perhaps have been used.
But before we delve deeper into last weekend’s events, it would be churlish to miss the opportunity to document some of the sorry story of how we got here. Since it’s customary to look back at all the horrible histories of our inductees, you’ll be relieved to know Pride Glasgow hasn’t been around that long, forming in 2008 following a split from the old “Pride Scotia” organisation (which, for the dweebs, was the replacement for the “Pride Scotland” organisation which went bust in 2002).
Scotland’s first annual Pride march took place in 1995, organised by Edinburgh Uni Students, with events alternating between Edinburgh and Glasgow until they went their separate ways more than a decade later. While the Edinburgh event remains basically a march, Pride Glasgow has gone in another direction entirely. By 2014, it had made the full leap from political march, through the awkward bank staff giving away yoyos phase (the pre credit crunch days were wild), right up to the pay to attend festival it now is, this year managing to insist anyone who didn’t pre-order a ticket would have to pay £15 to enter the event, since all the cheaper tickets for just the Saturday “sold out” in the week before.
You could be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t the tickets which sold out but the whole fucking show. While the march remains free, it is now an intensely regulated and, if Saturday’s fiasco is anything to go by, violently policed affair.
Amongst some our other fave movements from Pride Glasgow over the years include:
The association between Pride Glasgow and the G1 group is a fucking riddy, with the Polo Longue (a G1 venue) again being the headline sponsor for this year. To labour this point, once more: the Stonewall riots were also firmly aimed at the, erm, booze punting gangsters who profited from our community without giving a shit about us. See also: the existence of notorious nightclub boss Stefan King and the record of his G1 Group over the years, including refusing entry to someone on the basis they were a wheelchair user (Robert Gale won £2000 damages following a court action), being involved in the first ever case brought against a nightclub under the Race Relations Act, the G1 venue which let men hire booths in a room on the other side of the mirror in the women’s toilets, naming a venue after a famous whites-only jazz club and getting caught out for not paying minimum wage, to name but a few.
If you multiple G1 by a billion , you don’t get close to the scale of evil that is G4s, another “proud” sponsor of Pride Glasgow this year. You may remember G4S for failing to provide security during the Olympics, employing Omar Mateen (who carried out the Pulse massacre, the most deadly shooting in US history, targeted at the latinx queer community), being responsible for the HM Birmingham riot and using detained migrants to provide labour in their facilities.
Keep yer money, we want change doesn’t cut it here, G4S are a disgrace to humanity and their involvement in Pride Glasgow is abhorrent.
The Racist Drag fiasco
Then there was the furore over their decision to invite Queens of Pop, a group famed for making a blackface video, to play the main stage, with Pride Glasgow initially refusing to drop the act after protests and despite them being pulled from other Pride festivals. In the end, the group themselves dropped out but it was pretty clear Pride Glasgow weren’t prepared to stand with those challenging racism.
No politics please, we’re shopping
The overarching theme has been the massive increase in corporate presence mixed with having to pay to enter the “main event”, at a cost which has already increased since 2014. Frankly, Sainsburys and RBS don’t deserve a parade to celebrate the fact they officially comply with UK employment legislation, our communities haven’t been helped by Stefan fucking King, we are having our identities marketed back to us and it’s getting really dull, really quickly.
This year, instead of there being blocs of, for example, trade unionists marching together, organisers decided to divide the demo into “coloured sections” and assign groups into them seemingly at random but clearly not, ensuring nothing took away from the attempt to sell you shit and it didn’t look too scary going through town. This feels like yet another attempt to take the politics out of Pride by splitting up groups who’d naturally want to march together, although after endorsing the violence of the actual fucking polis, complaints about policing the tone of the march are hardly surprising.
Organisers also made clear they wouldn’t tolerate banners criticising Pride Glasgow itself – or any group taking part in the parade – we’re not entirely sure what they could mean…
It’s important to give some context to the factors which have led us to where we are, aside from the obvious decision by the organisers to bin the whole idea of this being a political event and turn it into a festival of rainbow capitalism. And of course, a lot of the blame falls at the feet of the previous Glasgow City Council administration, who withdrew funding from Pride Glasgow and were generally obstructive, corrupt and useless. When they weren’t offered discounted rates in 2013, a spat ensued which resulted in Pride Glasgow telling the council not to fly the rainbow flag. Pride Glasgow CEO, Alastair Smith made a statement at the time, condemning “profiteering on Pride” (oh yes!), which included these words:
How far we’ve come since the heady days when Smith was prepared to endorse our radical, controversial, unafraid and dangerous movement – he was one of the first on the scene last Saturday, blocking those attempting to protest and he stood by as police proceeded to attack and arrest LGBT+ people. Unafraid and dangerous indeed.
Following these shameful incidents, activists organised solidarity actions outside the police station and subsequently outside court on Monday. And of course, it was time for everyone to have their say: a statement from the NUS LGBT+ and Trans Campaigns condemning the arrests, from the IWW doing the same, further condemnation via a statement from Free Pride, a statement from the Equality Network & Scottish Trans Alliance… and of course, a statement from Pride Glasgow themselves (which has now been removed from their page). At which point: all that queer shit we get up to really hit the fan.
I presume their statement was crafted by an actual angry baby rather than Alastair Smith CEO. This could have been an opportunity to offer solidarity to those arrested and attacked, reflect on the fucking stupidity of centring the Polis in the first place and give assurances of help to those who really needed it while committing to review what they had done today to make themselves feel proud, as everyone had asked. Instead it was “they were probably terrorists anyway, also fuck SheBoom.”
Yes, they actually messed with an institution far, far more mighty and respected than Pride Glasgow: the all women, all drumming, always leading Pride marches in Glasgow since 1998 and nearly every other march since forever, SheBoom. They’re known not just in the LGBT+ community but by anyone’s who’s ever walked the streets in the rain on a Saturday for any cause, so it’s fair to say our paths cross often. One thing Sheboom absolutely definitely know how to do is march. Although it’s shocking that they were publicly condemned by Pride Glasgow, I cannot help laughing that a group defined by sheer cowardice picked a fight with a band we have far higher on our “not be fucked with” list than various armed wings of the state. This truly was #BraveEveryday – and also fucking stupid. SheBoom released a statement demanding an apology for “two outrageous false accusations about SheBoom”, saying “We are shocked, appalled, saddened and devastated by the events of this Saturday and the response of Pride Glasgow” and pointing out how poorly stewarded the parade actually was and how they were effectively responsible for its safe passage back to the Green.
Aside from fucking with that band youse all love, the Pride Glasgow statement said they were “extremely disappointed” in the protesters and anti-fascists, “support the actions of Police Scotland in dealing with this group” and even managed to bring the “current threat level” into the bargain. If police are good at their jobs, they’d know who these people were coz I knew all the polis purely from standing around at these things for as long as we all have. There is zero chance the “current threat level” was on the mind of Alastair “Unafraid & Dangerous” Smith as he tried to stop a protest at “his” parade, we all knew exactly what was going on.
I felt pretty shaky about the section of the march where there was traffic on the road but I realised most people in the universe are more at risk going on a Pride march than I’ll ever be – but if you’re organising these things, you cannot shout “MANCHESTER, LONDON, BARCELONA!!!” at a group clearly carrying a banner and a megaphone, then march people off into oncoming traffic with little or no stewarding. When those in power use the vague threat of terrorism to justify taking away our hard fought rights and freedoms, we have to resist them. It’s shameful these kinds of notions are being actively supported by Pride Glasgow in an attempt to crack down on dissent, especially when the only people I saw threatening others on Saturday were the police. They’re the threat we need to be talking about.
It would be disingenuous to pretend the problems with Pride Glasgow are unique because they’re not, the corporate takeover of Pride events is a far-reaching phenomenon and Manchester Pride is often credited as leading the trend towards a pay to attend event where you’re bombarded with adverts about how your supermarket, hair products, bank and wir old pals in the police and the army pure love us and totally want us to shop there and have amazing hair before we’re sacrificed in their imperial conflicts etc. etc. And everywhere, people are resisting this.
Everywhere. What’s most stunning is that Pride Glasgow seemed to think they could actually get away with acting like they were the ones with a right to be “extremely disappointed” while endorsing and supporting such needless violence against LGBT+ people at their events. The furious response from punters prompted a first attempt, too little, too late, climbdown where suddenly they’d be giving the police a good talking to – despite their actual CEO being right there, participating in attempts to prevent protests.
We’ve gone from “unafraid and dangerous” to “actions which endanger others will not be permitted” in the space of 4 short years – without much discussion of how the actions of Pride Glasgow endanger and exclude some of the people Pride is meant to be for.
Last night, Pride Glasgow finally buckled, apologised unreservedly for their statement – and to SheBoom – said no-one should have been arrested despite their complicity and express support for those arrests. They also pretended “social media training” played any part in the underlying politics of what was expressed/exposed via a Facebook post. It’s not about being good at saying terrible things, it’s about not being terrible. And this week, Pride Glasgow has been absolutely fucking terrible.
The u-turn is proof that political pressure works, they had no idea they were so fucking wrong, but it remains to be seen whether Pride Glasgow will fundamentally rethink what their organisation exists to do (sell tickets and run what’s little more than a rainbow sponsored walk) or whether they know they’ve had some shit PR and just want it to go away. Nonetheless, a special wipeout is owed to the people who spent the week defending an organisation who’ve now made clear even they know their actions were indefensible, youse are… some kind of byproduct of a belated repentant Weekly Wanker, except not nearly as tasty.
Thankfully, there has been so much inspiring resistance to the actions of the Police and the show of contempt from Pride Glasgow. Everyone from our local councillor to Chelsea Manning came out in support of those now dubbed The Pride 5 and our main aim now must be justice for those targeted at/by Pride Glasgow. We’d encourage people to follow the hashtag #FreeThePride5 for updates on proceedings and solidarity actions.
But beyond the events of last weekend, we have to keep building our community up, educating ourselves about our history, our struggles and of how much we have to gain by standing by those who’ve got us to where we are. For years we’ve relied on the support of the very people left behind by rainbow capitalism, the people pushed to the margins when we centre the police in our protests. Our community cannot be about putting up fences and buying wristbands anymore, not while people are getting nicked for protesting at Pride, not while LGBT asylum seekers are being detained and deported, not while we still don’t have decent gender recognition laws, not while basic health care for many trans people often comes at a cost due to poor NHS provision. We have to send a message to Pride Glasgow that they either stand with all of us or they stand for none of us. This week, they’ve made their choice pretty clearly.
So we have to fight for something better. We can support the work of the array of organisations like Free Pride who run an alternative to Pride Glasgow’s paid main event, LGBT Unity who support LGBT asylum seekers and refugees and the Scottish Trans Alliance, who’re campaigning to finally get the gender recognition legislation Scotland needs. There are other answers to the questions of how we support each other and this year’s annual Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) has a pay what you can ticket system, as if to demonstrate we don’t actually have to be total bastards, even when things do cost money to put on.
Despite their belated apology, there are a lot of unanswered questions for Pride Glasgow: if they oppose the arrests, where does that leave their CEO who did not, in any way, oppose the arrests? If they oppose the arrests, why did they say they pre-agreed there would be arrests if there was “disruption” (i.e. a protest of any kind) with their new bezzies at Police Scotland? Will they ever stop just being a walking advert to a pay to attend festival and listen to what people are saying?
WOT ABOUT THE CURRENT THREAT LEVELS?!?!
Whatever happens, we have the Chief Chugger at Pride Glasgow to thank for our mission statement. Don’t let the polis and their pink pound snatching pals write us out of our own events and struggles, let’s fight for a Pride movement which honours the radical, controversial, unafraid and dangerous movement we all know and love, not those who want to profit from the shambles Pride Glasgow has become.
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