Hundreds of thousands marched through the streets of London today as part of World Pride’s celebrations of LGBT achievement and the fight against sexual oppression.
People chanted “Stonewall was a riot—we will not be quiet” in reference to the Stonewall riot in New York 40 years ago triggered by a police raid on a gay bar.
This year’s event was overshadowed by a funding scandal. The directors of London Pride relied on big business sponsors for funding. But many pulled out of the event, leaving it with a shortfall of some £60,000.
Floats were banned as a result. The event and scaled at short notice and the march was moved from 1pm to 11am under pressure from London’s Tory mayor Boris Johnson and the Metropolitan Police.
Many marchers were furious at what had happened. Ellie, who was marching with the PCS union contingent, told Socialist Worker, “I’m gutted at what has happened to Pride this year—but at the same time I’m not surprised.
“If we rely on big business to back our fight for liberation, this is what will happen. Trade unions and charities that campaign all year round on LGBT issues have been carved out of Pride in recent years.”
Rory Timmel was marching with a lively delegation from the National Union of Students. “I agree with the slogan ‘Pride is a protest’,” he said. “We should be proud of our history of fighting back against the police and politicians that wanted to pretend gay people didn’t exist.”
LGBT charities are being increasingly hit by the Tory austerity drive. One worker from LGBT Switchboard, a 24-hour helpline for LGBT people, spoke to Socialist Worker about the effect of the cuts.
“The idea of the ‘big society’ is a sick joke,” the worker said. “Our switchboard is a lifeline for hundreds of people. Suicide rates in the LGBT community are on the rise but the government don’t seem to care about that.
“Our funding has already been cut once and could be again. Pride is a major fundraising opportunity for us and many other charities but we’ve being pushed more and more to the background.”
The involvement of Israeli cultural organisations in Pride was another point of contention. Israel uses LGBT issues to mask and justify its oppression of Palestians—a tactic known as “pinkwashing”.
Palestine solidarity campaigners responded by waving Palestinian flags in front of the stage at Trafalgar Square when an Israeli band came on to play.
Activists are now battling to take back Pride. They are demanding a properly elected and representative body to run the organisation and put the politics back into Pride.