Pride is much more than a festival. Most importantly, it’s a time to commemorate the LGBTQ+ community’s resistance to police violence.
The event that is often considered the spark of the gay rights movement was the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. Patrons of a New York City bar, The Stonewall Inn, were routinely harassed by the police, subjected to degrading strip searches, and consistently at the mercy of police raids. Homosexuality was illegal, and bars and clubs were often the only places LGBTQ+ individuals were free to express themselves in public. However, during a police raid on June 28, 1969, people at the Stonewall didn’t just sit back and wait to get arrested. They fought back.
Nor did neighbors just walk by. They stood by, becoming increasingly agitated at the escalating police brutality. Within minutes, hundreds of people were resisting the police violence. The police became outnumbered and scared, eventually barricading themselves inside the bar. Stonewall had turned into an uprising.
And for five more days, protests erupted in the city, sometimes including thousands of people. On the one-year anniversary of the uprising, several demonstrators marched past the Stonewall, marking the first Pride parade. Though this event was not the first instance of LGBTQ+ people fighting back against police violence or discrimination, it has come to symbolize the beginning of a movement.
With this year poised to be one of the worst years for attacks on LGBTQ+ rights – with more than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in states across the country – the history of Pride is even more relevant. While corporations attempt to make Pride about consumerism, rainbow washing their adds and products, we need to make Pride about what it really is – people organizing and fighting for a better world.
In 1969 the fight for LGBTQ+ liberation was built alongside people organizing for Black liberation, against sexism, inequality and wars. Just as they did, today we also need to remember that our path forward will require a collective fight of everyone who refuses to bow their heads to the constant attacks of this oppressive society.
Over a year has passed since the pandemic began ravaging the world, leaving almost 4 million people dead worldwide. And in this country, millions are still unemployed, and even more are struggling to pay back rent and could face eviction, and food pantry lines continue to grow along with encampments of the unhoused. Racist violence and police brutality still plague the country while government officials continue to make empty gestures toward police reform, and corporations rebrand themselves as they try to erase the racist imagery they have promoted for decades. And meanwhile, the impacts of climate disruption grow all around us, with record heatwaves, intensifying droughts, massive human displacement, and more.
Pride doesn’t have to be a time just to march in demonstrations. Pride can be a time to remember that only when regular people stand up and fight back do we see the kind of changes we need. We can see from the history of Pride what people organized together in their own interests can do. Making sure our resistance doesn’t get co-opted by corporations looking to make a buck off our struggles is going to require an even bigger vision – one where we stand in solidarity together against a system that works to rob us all of our humanity and our livelihoods.