Tale of two Prides: Does the #Resist hashtag die in San Diego?
During his recent visit to San Diego, legendary LGBTQ, civil, human and labor rights organizer, Cleve Jones, who was a close confidant and protégé of the late Harvey Milk, said that queer people have a unique opportunity to resist the regressive perils of trumpism and those who would roll back recent gains in equality.
“I think Harvey would want to celebrate the amazing achievements we have accomplished in the last four decades,” said Cleve Jones, who was in town several weeks ago not only to receive a lifetime achievement award at the annual Harvey Milk Breakfast, but also for a UniteHere labor rally.
“But I think Harvey would caution us to be vigilant,” he continued. “We cannot take things for granted.”
Jones’ remarks set the tone for a Pride season in 2017 that has proven to be unlike any in recent memory. Now, in the wake of L.A.’s #ResistMarch, San Diego is wrestling with the idea of resistance even as its Pride parade draws near.
“We’re probably going to give them our endorsement,” Will Rodriguez Kennedy, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, told San Diego LGBT Weekly. “But before that happens, we want to know that San Diego Pride understands this year’s different – that the progress LGBTQ people made under Obama is now being threatened.”
By the last day of L.A. Pride in the middle of June, just as the #ResistMarch was underway as were similar, L.A.-inspired protest marches across the nation, including one in San Diego to which about 5,000 marchers showed up, Rodriguez Kennedy’s organization had made its endorsement, proclaiming support for the 2017 rendition of the San Diego LGBT Pride parade and festival.
“Look, they did have a march in June,” he said during a follow-up interview. “That’s good – that’s really good. But what a lot of us in the progressive movement and what I think L.A. and other cities did in June was to show that you can resist taking corporate funding.”
Says Rodriguez Kennedy, LGBTQ organizations including Pride groups should start looking more closely at whether companies from which they accept funding also support politicians who, or measures that, hurt working people, the poor as well as LGBTQ equality and the interests of non-queer allies of equality.
“We’re not asking them to cancel the Pride parade,” he said. “But we are asking them to act with more integrity and selectiveness to avoid taking funds from and promoting companies like Wal-Mart and Anheuser-Busch that hurt our community by supporting politicians like Donald J. Trump, companies that actively fight paying a living wage to workers.”
Inasmuch as San Diego organizers are inclined to look to Los Angeles to inform their Pride parade and how it might also unfold as a march bearing a political statement, there’s a wealth of experience to consider.
If they do look, they’ll first find that L.A.’s experience began with internal resistance.
“The leadership of CSW were against the idea at first,” said Los Angeles #ResistMarch organizer, Brian Pendleton. “They had their hearts set on a business-as-usual parade. These guys are music festival producers and were worried that a march would impact them financially.”
A veteran event producer himself, Pendleton understood the concerns of Christopher Street West’s board, which organizes L.A Pride. But understanding isn’t the same as agreeing.
“… [A]fter seeing the overwhelming support from the Southern California community, they waived a bunch of rules, invited me to join the board, and gave me and my committee of 65 people complete control of the march,” he said.
It could be argued that L.A.’s historic, just-ended march was as much a response to years of growing dissatisfaction and a widening perception that Christopher Street West had, in recent years, become over-commercialized, as it was a reaction to the potential perils of far-right forces taking over all three branches of government.
Last year, a Los Angeles Times headline screamed that very sentiment with cutting clarity: “LA Pride has sold out and become ‘gay Coachella,’ critics say.”
However, Pendleton is unequivocal about who ignited, and what fueled his unstoppable drive to take over L.A.’s parade and turn it into an all-out protest against hate, homophobia and the other excesses of trumpism.
“I saw that D.C. was going to do [The Equality] March on Washington [for Unity and Pride] the same day as the L.A. Pride Parade,” he recalled the day in January when he had his “aha” moment. “I posted on my personal page that we should march for human rights instead of parade in 2017 and got 33,000 likes.”
If that was “the who” and “the what” of Pendleton’s inspiration to take on L.A. Pride’s establishment, insisting on a march, some say his “why” was too much of an “anti-message;” that his #ResistMarch, its organizers and even the more than 100,000 people who ultimately marched with him were too nebulous about their goals.
Poppycock, says Pendleton. He fired off a litany of values he says are inculcated within the now famous hashtag, #ResistMarch.
“We wanted to exclaim our raw honesty,” Pendleton said in an email response to a follow-up question sent after The Blade’s phone interview with him shortly after L.A. Pride had concluded but while the afterglow of its march was still fresh. His reply continued:
“We #Resist you pushing us back into the closet. We #Resist you telling us where to go to the bathroom. We #Resist you stripping away our medical coverage and job protections. There is a time for positive messaging, but this year people wanted to #RESIST. We must stand up in defiance against this administration and state administrations, they are trying to strip away our rights every day. Many people in our community must fight to survive every day, there is no putting a smiley face on that. We needed to be in the streets in solidarity with them. When they come for one of us, they come for all of us.”
True to this city’s reputation as a more modest, milder-mannered metropolis than Los Angeles, which nevertheless boasts large LGBTQ and progressive communities, San Diego appears poised to call its version of last month’s march in solidarity with L.A.’s #ResistMarch “good enough.”
“I don’t think they’re going to cancel the parade and call for a march,” San Diego Democrats for Equality’s president, Will Rodriguez Kennedy told LGBT Weekly. “And that’s fine. But if they’re going to be part of the movement, San Diego Pride’s board needs to be diligent about where their corporate funds are coming from and not sell us out.”
For his part, Brian Pendleton recognizes there may be differences between Los Angeles and San Diego. Asked what message he would like to impart to San Diego LGBT Pride, he was at once supportive and circumspect.
“While we’d love to see a sister march in San Diego to keep the momentum going, we support you whatever you do,” he said. “Every city has its own politics. Every city has its own economics. If you need anything at all, we will be here to support you.”