3 min

Pride in ourselves

Get a grip: it's just a little garbage

Moscow, 2006: About 200 courageous queers take to the streets for their first Pride march ever, defying Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s decision to ban the march and dodging violent attacks from homophobic thugs.

“We were immediately set upon by about 100 fascist thugs and religious fanatics who began pushing, punching and kicking us,” British gay activist Peter Tatchell tells reporter Rex Wockner.

A quarter of Moscow’s police force turns out to try to stop the march from taking place at all.

A year later, police arrest Pride organizers as they gather at Moscow City Hall on May 27, while doing little to stop the homophobic protesters who gather to attack them.

“On numerous occasions, nationalists circled gay rights activists as they spoke with journalists, then reached in to punch or kick the person being interviewed,” reports the BBC. “Police intervened to arrest dozens of gay rights activists and only rarely detained their attackers.”

It was a short Pride parade, Dutch European Parliament member Sophie in ‘t Veld tells Wockner. “We felt eggs and other things being thrown. Police did nothing to arrest hooligans. I saw a guy with a knife and I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m out of here.'”

Riga, 2006: Homophobic mobs descend upon Riga, Latvia’s second annual Pride celebration, pelting participants with bags of shit, eggs and rotten food, while police stand by and do little.

“I was hit with a bag full of shit and had to go wash up,” says Rev Maris Sants.

No-Pride protesters chant, “No sodomy” and “Gays fuck the nation.” They wear T-shirts showing two guys having anal sex in a red circle with a line through it.

Budapest, 2007: Hundreds of skinheads, neo-Nazis and other thugs throw eggs, bottles, smoke bombs, Molotov cocktails and plastic bags of sand at the 2,000 marchers gathered for Budapest’s Pride parade, Jul 7.

“Faggots into the Danube, followed by the Jews,” the protesters yell, in addition to calls for the “Soap factory” and “Filthy faggots.”

Zagreb, 2007: Right-wing youth jeer at Pride marchers and spit on them as they go by. Some youth carry Molotov cocktails and tear gas. Police in full riot gear march along both sides of the parade.

And here in Vancouver, we’re stressed about a little strike.

Okay, a not-so-little strike, but let’s get some perspective, shall we? It’s not Molotov cocktails and riot police.

It’s just garbage.

Sure, I’d rather not be crunching on litter and tripping on beer bottles at the Pride parade, but how important is that, really? An eyesore? Certainly. Life threatening? Hardly.

In fact, this might be the perfect opportunity to stop relying on city workers and outside authorities to pave the way towards the prettiest city-sanctioned Pride parade we can have.

Pride used to be a defiant march here too; participants walked with their heads held high and their stomach in knots, knowing they too could be attacked, and marching proudly forth anyway. In spite of the risk; because of the risk.

Now we don’t really march anywhere and we whine when city workers refuse to sweep the streets prior to our arrival.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s remarkable that our pioneers’ courageous determination to be out, proud and visible has translated today into an estimated 300,000 cheering supporters lining our parade route, not to mention city support, routine police protection (sans riot gear), and hardly a hint of homophobia in sight.

I just think we’ve become too complacent, too dependent on city support and assistance to present our own Pride.

This is our march. Surely we can turn out in force on parade morning to pick up some garbage if need be?

The Pride Society has been begging for more volunteers forever; now they need them more than ever. What are you willing to give up to make sure our Pride parade rolls forth without a hitch? A few hours of your time? We’re not talking tear gas here.

Let’s make this the year we renew our commitment to our own Pride march and rely less heavily on the powers that be to make sure everything is in place.

Pride in the City? How about Pride in Ourselves, instead?