On Jun 28, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, a group of Edmonton-based queer activists recreated their city’s first Pride march, hoping to reclaim the spirit of Stonewall.
The Queer Recruitment Army, along with 40 other people, marched the original Edmonton Pride route from Corbett Hall on the University of Alberta campus, down 10 blocks along Whyte Ave, a popular strip on the city’s south side that has become gentrified since the original march in the summer of 1981. As they made their way on foot and bikes, they handed out flyers that read, “Stonewall Liberation! Resist! Revolt! Celebrate!” while chanting slogans such as “Say No to Bigotry, Yes to Diversity.”
In a statement released to gay media outlets the group indicated that, “In reclaiming the spirit of the Stonewall rebellion, the Queer Recruitment Army (QRA) will also be taking a stand against the increasing commercialization of Pride.”
The march ended with the group gathering in a green space just off of Whyte Ave where posters were set up so that marchers could write what Pride means to them.
This was the QRA’s second action. Carrying signs that read “My Pride is Not for Sale” and “Stonewall was not sponsored by TD,” the QRA first made their presence known June 12 when they marched in Edmonton’s Pride Parade protesting the renaming and branding of the event as the TD Canada Trust Pride Parade.
Careful not to be seen as attacking the organizers of Edmonton’s Pride Week Festival, QRA member Monika Penner explains the group’s intentions are “not to put down the Pride Week committee, who I know care about equality” but rather, she says, “to challenge the impact and extent of sponsorship. I think it is great that a business wants to support Pride. In fact, all businesses — and individuals — should support Pride. But this rebranding turns a queer event into a corporate event. And this has got to stop.”
In part, the QRA’s reclaiming of the spirit of Stonewall is an effort to remind people of the diversity of participants in the Stonewall riots of 1969. Those riots included gay men, hustlers, leather dykes, the homeless, drag queens, drug addicts, people of all races and others.
“In fact the modern gay movement and the whole rainbow flag thing really seems only to serve the most normative of homosexuals — out, white, gay American or European able-bodied men between the ages of 18 to 50,” says Mitchell.
Formed, as Mitchell explains, “in a very sort of knee-jerk response to the term TD Canada Trust Pride Parade” the QRA will now be meeting often to discuss and act on issues facing various queer communities. Aiming to represent more diverse queer communities, Mitchell explains the goals of the QRA and why it was formed.
“For the past 50 years or so, many gay activists, by in large, have continued to fight for mainstream acceptance by comparing gayness to straightness — that is, monogamous people struggling for the right to marry and raise families, look and act normal, occupy a certain position in consumerist society, etcetera. And this has been a very successful tactic, but at what cost? Who gets left behind, and who is further marginalized?”
The forming of the QRA and the rolling out of their actions comes at a time where Edmonton’s queer community is becoming increasingly active in recent months and more closely linked to the city’s activist and do-it-yourself (DIY) communities. The summer has seen organized protests against the Alberta government from many different groups. Queer activists rallied against the delisting of gender reassignment surgery and the perceived backhanded way in which sexual orientation was finally recognized in the province’s human rights act.
Queer Recruitment Army.