The London Pride march last Saturday was most memorable for people’s rage—and their determination to take back Pride.
Around 100,000 marched through London as part of World Pride’s celebrations of LGBT gains and the fight against sexual oppression.
But this year’s event was overshadowed by a funding scandal. The directors of London Pride relied on big business sponsors for funding. Many pulled out of the event, leaving a shortfall of some £60,000.
As a result the event was scaled back at short notice. Floats were banned 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. 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.”
It seems like the Pride organisers want people to feel like the event was a flop. They claimed it attracted just 15,000 people—even though it took hours to pass any given point.
Anger at such problems combined with people feeling that they want Pride to be more of a protest again. People chanted “Stonewall was a riot—we will not be quiet”. This was in reference to the Stonewall riot in New York in 1969, triggered by a police raid on a gay bar.
Nina is 16 and from Camden. She told Socialist Worker, “We could hear the chanting from further back so we came to find this bit. It’s good that people can come to Pride and feel safe about being out. But we’ve got a long way to go and things are getting harder.
“There is no EMA anymore and university fees being so high will trap people in lives they don’t want to lead. It’s true, that placard—never trust a Tory!”
LGBT charities are also 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,” they 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.”
The involvement of Israeli cultural organisations in Pride was another point of contention. Israel uses LGBT issues to claim to be a “gay-friendly” democracy, masking its oppression of Palestinians.
Palestine solidarity campaigners responded by waving Palestinian flags in front of the stage at Trafalgar Square when an Israeli band came on to play.
This was not a defeated Pride—it was one that’s up for a fight.
Activists demand a democratic Pride
Activists are getting organised to try and get Pride to be a more democratic body—not one dictated to by commercial interests. They want a properly elected board and for the books to be opened so that people know what went wrong with the parade.
A statement is being circulated for people to sign. Many have already added their names in anticipation of a TUC-hosted meeting on Monday next week.
The statement says, “Pride belongs to LGBT people and our supporters and friends. We need a Pride London that involves community groups of every kind such as LGBT charities, trade unions, campaigning and student groups, commercial venues and the LGBT media.
“We need a structure which starts from the principle that Pride is owned by all of us, and puts that into practice.”