Rainbow Rant: In defense of the Black Pride 4
The charges against the Black Pride 4 should have been dropped. Period.
The Black Pride 4 were a part of a group of 10 individuals who blocked the Stonewall Pride Parade in June 2017. The peaceful protesters called for seven minutes of silence to call attention to the Philando Castile verdict and to memorialize the 11 trans women that had been murdered up to that point last year.
That's when the Columbus Division of Police stepped in, with the protesters being pushed by police bikes, sprayed with Mace and tackled to the ground. Since the incident, three of the demonstrators have been tried and convicted on multiple misdemeanor charges. A fourth, Deandre Miles, will be tried separately on a felony charge of aggravated robbery after being accused of reaching for a police officer's gun during the incident.
What's particularly disappointing to me is how the group became victims of the very thing they were protesting in the first place. They asked for a moment of peaceful silence, but instead were met with violence. The scene invoked the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village, which launched the movement for which Stonewall Columbus is named. Trans women of color were also at the forefront of this 1969 uprising.
Stonewall Columbus was subpoenaed to testify in the trial, and many in the community viewed the testimony as favorable to the prosecution's case. This appeared, to some, to be further evidence the organization had turned its back on the Black Pride 4, after initially offering to help with legal expenses for the group in a Facebook post. (The post was later altered and the offer removed.)
Given the organization's history of activism, one would think its leadership team would have loudly advocated for the group.
Testifying in court during the trial of individuals whose sole purpose was to bring awareness to specific issues affecting queer people and people of color is choosing the wrong side. As an organization that prides itself on inclusion, and was also founded through the uprising of oppressed people, Stonewall Columbus should be ashamed. The organization in no way aided in the fight to combat racism, or to guard the safety of queer bodies.
Instead, it opted to take the corporate route, choosing to protect the bottom line and established business relationships rather than standing up for the injustice that unfolded on that day. Stonewall is currently building a new community center. It also has business and civic relationships it would like to uphold. If these things have become more valuable to the organization than its founding values, then maybe it should consider a name change.
Many other protesters held similar demonstrations at Pride events across the country last year without incident. We have to ask ourselves why the same wasn't true in Columbus, and who should be held accountable for the damage that has been done.
With the BP4's sentencing coming up, and with all the conflict the situation has dredged up, it could be said Stonewall has blood on its hands, too.