Although some may say I am too young to remember Pride in its original glory, apart from my drunken teenage years, when anything would do, it has never quite hit the spot for me. Many say Pride died a long time ago, and I think they’re right.
This year, a few of us decided we’d had enough of the corporatisation of Pride. Enough of the continued refusal to use Pride as a medium to address current queer issues. We decided to “mourn” this and remember the event’s radical history, which helped push the freedoms we currently enjoy as gay and lesbian people in London, let alone around the country and the world.
There is a problem with the politics at Pride. Barclays has previously been named “one of the top three UK employers for LGBT people” in the 2012 Stonewall Workplace Index. Barclays was fined GBP 290 million by UK and US financial authorities that year for its involvement with fraudulent rate fixing in the Libor scandal. Barclays’ track record with rate fixing dates back to at least 2005. During the financial crisis, Barclays artificially lowered its rates to give the impression that it was healthy, and recorded billions of pounds in profits from the banking crash. Yet they continue to march.
These controversies raise important questions. Is Barclays trying to clean its dirty money by sponsoring and leading the Pride parade? What can be right about allowing major corporations, who dodge taxes and prevent unions from organising, to lead the city’s largest parade, which was traditionally a focal point for challenging politics and the inhumane policies enforced by multinationals? Is Barclays really a friend of the queers or trying to capitalise on the so-called “Pink Pound“?
UKIP was ousted from participating in 2015 London Pride after much protest from the queer community. This led to influential leaders like Boris Johnson complaining about double standards, and UKIP has attempted to politicize their removal to play the role of victim. It’s clear that among organizers, there has been a gross oversight of the party’s very public track record for racist, classist, and homophobic remarks. Pride in my opinion should be ideologically opposed to a political party led by Nigel Farage, who recently made obscenely racist and homophobic remarks about HIV+ migrants during the 2015 election debates.
We broke into the parade at a crossing point by Oxford Circus and immediately met some resistance from the stewards and private security. As some of the crowd was shouting support for our right to peacefully protest for free (as people now have to pay to participate in Pride) we marched through and, drums playing, coffin intact, began our funeral procession for Pride.
At the next few crossing points, the stewards joined hands and tried to stop us, but with some ducking, diving, and simply breaking, we made it. After a while, perhaps they decided that is was worse to drag a group of queer people off the road at Pride than to let our peaceful protest continue. We managed to complete the funeral procession with security van following closely behind, perhaps to ensure that we could not get back to the corporate blocks marching behind us.
When we got to Whitehall, we stopped and waited for the main procession to catch up, so we could show the corporate blocks what we thought of them. We didn’t realize that UKIP had the same idea, despite being officially uninvited. As soon as we spotted them, half of us ran across the road to a chant of “Fuck UKIP!” to make it clear that they were not welcome. The chant was quickly picked up by others, both in the procession and watching. UKIP got the message that they were not welcome and slunk away.
It was the small victories of R.I.P. Pride that made it a resounding success, in my opinion. Hopefully next year, who knows, there will be a bigger movement of people who want to take Pride back to its roots.
Photographs courtesy of Levi Hinds.