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From Pride To Protest: LGBT Parades Take On A New Tone This Year

Jun 1, 2017
Originally published on June 9, 2017 8:00 am

LGBT Pride Month around the country is marked by celebratory parades — featuring floats, dancers and celebrities. And they've been especially joyous in recent years, following the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

But this year, the tone of Los Angeles's parade has shifted from pride to protest.

"We've converted the parade, floats and fun to a march for civil rights," says Brian Pendleton, who has planned what's now called the Resist March for June 11.

The Resist March is in coordination with protests in more than 50 cities around the world, all taking place under the banner, "Equality March for Unity and Pride."

"You have the science march, the climate march, the women's march, the immigration march," says Anika Simpson, co-organizer of the international effort. "I feel a sense of solidarity across these groups."

And Pendleton thinks the Resist March is taking the baton.

"We're lending our giant iconic rainbow flag not just to the LGBTQ community, but to anyone who feels threatened," he says.

Turning the parade political

Major sponsors who've supported the LA Pride Parade in the past, like Nissan and Skyy Vodka, have bailed on the Resist March.

Wells Fargo was a longtime one, too, and a spokesman says it would have backed a parade. But as a policy, it won't sponsor political or partisan rallies.

Pendleton is unaffected, and says he didn't want to reach out to companies about sponsorship, either.

"I think people would ... wonder if their messaging has been co-opted by corporate America," he says.

That sentiment is shared by Drian Juarez, a transgender woman who grew increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of branding and sponsorships at past Pride events.

"For me it's not about these corporations usurping our movement," she says. "For me, the Resist March is really about coming back to our roots."

Then there are others who are resisting the Resist March because they're conservative.

"It's just very disappointing to me," says Matthew Craffey, head of the LA chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT group. "I feel this is the one weekend a year we really can put the politics aside."

He says that the Pride Parade welcomed everyone in the LGBT community, including conservatives. But Craffey is skeptical that he'd be greeted with open arms at the Resist March, even if organizers say the event isn't partisan.

"There's no doubt in my mind it'll be anti-Republican," he says. "Resist marches across the country have a pretty focused target and that is the Trump administration."

Craffey argues that Trump, himself, has done nothing that discriminates against LGBT people.

"There's been a lot of panic about what President Trump might do," he says. "I would just say this: We still have the right to marry; we still have all the rights when he came into office we had."

Resist what?

Others are unclear about the march's goal.

Oliver Alpulche owns Redline, a gay bar in downtown LA. He leans liberal but wants more direction about what he should be protesting.

"What are the points that are going to resonate with the entire LGBTQ community to say, 'This is what we stand for and this is why we're basically giving up the Pride Parade?'" he asks.

Plus, Alpuche believes organizers have not been clear in their messaging about what should happen when the Resist March ends.

"If no one knows what to do afterwards, the next day people are just going to move on to the next topic of conversation," says Alpulche, "when do we stop becoming activists and when do we start becoming leaders?"

But the leader of LA's Resist March, Brian Pendleton, believes the event is taking a page from LGBT history to face the future of American politics.

"This idea that we're getting back to our roots as a protest organization rather than as a parading organization felt right," he says.

And Pendleton hopes that when people participate in a march to resist, they can walk away proud.

Copyright 2017 Southern California Public Radio . To see more, visit Southern California Public Radio .

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

June is Pride Month. LGBT people around the world will celebrate with parades and festivals. But the tone is shifting at some of these events from pride to protest because of the election of President Trump. From our member station KPCC in Los Angeles, Leo Duran reports.

LEO DURAN, BYLINE: Earlier this year was the 50th anniversary of the Black Cat Tavern protest in Los Angeles. It was one of America's first LGBT demonstrations. And people paid their respects by recreating the march.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) What do we want?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Justice.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) When do we want it?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Now.

DURAN: It was that very night that Brian Pendleton announced that he wanted to turn LA's Pride parade into a serious protest like the Black Cat march. His idea went viral, and he's now the organizer of what's become LA's Resist March.

BRIAN PENDLETON: So we've converted the parade - you know, floats and fun - to a march for civil rights.

DURAN: It's in coordination with protests in more than 50 cities around the world. They're all taking place under the banner Equality March for Unity and Pride. Anika Simpson is co-organizing the international effort.

ANIKA SIMPSON: You have the science march, the Climate March, the Women's March, Immigration March. I feel a sense of solidarity across these groups.

DURAN: And organizers think this upcoming one takes the baton from those past events. But some people are raining on this protest. Major sponsors who've supported the LA Pride parade in the past have bailed on the Resist March, including Nissan and SKYY Vodka. Wells Fargo was a longtime supporter, too, but a spokesman says, as a policy, it doesn't sponsor political or partisan rallies. And it isn't just corporations that are resisting the Resist March.

MATTHEW CRAFFEY: I mean, it's just very disappointing to me.

DURAN: This is Matthew Craffey. He heads the LA chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT group. And he doesn't want to lose the Pride parade.

CRAFFEY: I feel like this is the one weekend a year where we really can all put the politics aside.

DURAN: March organizers say the event isn't partisan. But Craffey says people like him probably wouldn't be welcomed.

CRAFFEY: I know it will be anti-Republican (laughter). Like, there's no doubt in my mind it's going to be anti-Republican. So, to me, there is a target. And if you look at the fact that resist marches across the country have a pretty focused target - and that is the Trump administration.

DURAN: And he argues Trump himself has not done anything to roll back LGBT rights.

CRAFFEY: There's been a lot of panic about what President Trump might do. Like, I would just say this. We still have the right to marry. We still have all the rights that, when he came into office, we had.

DURAN: Others want to know exactly what they're meant to resist. Oliver Alpuche owns a gay bar in Los Angeles. He leans more liberal. But he wants specifics about what he should be protesting against.

OLIVER ALPUCHE: What are the points that is going to resonate with the entire LGBT community? - to say, this is what we stand for, and this is why we're basically giving up the Pride parade.

DURAN: And Alpuche says organizers aren't clear about what he should do when he gets home.

ALPUCHE: I think we're going to have a resist march. But if no one knows what to do afterwards, the next day, people are just going to move on to the next topic of conversation. When do we stop becoming activists, and when do we start becoming leaders?

DURAN: But the creator of LA's Resist March, Brian Pendleton, says the event is the first step in taking a page from LGBT history to face the future of American politics.

PENDLETON: This idea that we're getting back to our roots as a protest organization, rather than as a parading organization - it felt right.

DURAN: So Pendleton hopes that, when people participate in a march to resist, they can walk away proud. For NPR News, I'm Leo Duran in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREEDOM! '90")

GEORGE MICHAEL: (Singing) Freedom. I won't let you down. Freedom. I will not give you up. Have some faith in the sound. Got to give what you take. It's the one good thing that I've got. Freedom. I won't let you down. So please don't give me up. Freedom. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.