R.I.P. Pride Funeral breaks into protest and leads the London LGBT Pride march ahead of Barclays and chases UKIP off Pride.
A coalition of individuals belonging to LGBTQI communities and holding a ‘Pride Funeral’ procession, broke through barriers at Oxford Circus to lead this year’s London LGBT Pride Parade. Coffin bearers, flag wavers, banner holders, an undertaker and a samba band sounding a slow funereal beat, all resisted security and stewards who attempted to physically remove them from the street. With flags baring messages of solidarity, politics, freedom and anti-commercialisation, RIP Pride activists solemnly strode the route section from Oxford Circus toward Embankment, until its final destination at the foot of Whitehall. The group’s action was one of sombre defiance against the fee that Pride organisers now charge those who want a place on the historically significant LGBT parade.
Anger at the annual parade reached unprecedented levels this year, when news of UKIP’s inclusion in queer festivities were originally confirmed. This involved a key position for UKIP at the front of the parade. The queer community outcry for UKIP removal, resulted in Pride organisers disinviting them, citing ‘health and safety concerns’ rather than recognising the grievances of those who raised concerns. One of the organisers later went on to call members of the community concerned by the inclusion of the far-right party, ‘hypocrites’ (1).
However, it transpired that a group of men holding UKIP placards were one of the first groups marching on the parade, closely following Barclays (2). RIP Pride mourners were reading a Pride eulogy around their grounded Pride coffin when they spotted UKIP marching near the front. Those in the funeral procession confronted UKIP waving their flags and chanting, and this ultimately lead to UKIP supporters leaving the scene, in the face of growing hostility.
Dan Laverick a mourner at ‘RIP Pride’ said: “We’re here to remember what Pride started as, and its radical legacy. We’re also here to protest against what it has become. I’m here to grieve over the soulless corporate character of ‘Pride in London’, which has nothing to say about LGBTQI issues today such as 1 in 4 homeless people in the UK being from our community, the people seeing services upon which they depend cut as part of the austerity agenda (3), or the loss of queer spaces in London to property developers serving an international elite (4). To invite a party like UKIP which attacks migrants, people living with HIV, homosexuals, and any other vulnerable minority as it suits them, was the final nail in the coffin (5).”
Dada Schling a mourner at ‘RIP Pride’ said: “We broke through at a crossing point by Oxford Circus and were immediately met with some resistance from the stewards and private security. With some of the crowd shouting support for our right to peacefully protest for free (as people now have to pay to take part in Pride), we broke through and set off, with drums playing and coffin intact, to have our funeral procession for Pride. It’s the small victories of today that made it a resounding success in my opinion, and hopefully next year, who knows, there might be a bigger movement of people who want to take Pride back to its grassroots.”
Dan Glass a mourner at ‘RIP Pride’ said: “It was so great to see Pride return to it’s roots as a protest rather than just a parade (6). Pride should have strong political principles with equality for everyone at it’s heart not just big business or any organisation who wishes to milk the LGBTQI community dry. Our demand is that the organisation of Pride becomes democratic: decision-making power should be taken away from the current unrepresentative, largely corporate Board and an LGBTQIA assembly should be established, to decide the theme and direction for Pride in 2016 and onwards.
Notes to Editors
(1) Pride in London 2015: Ukip rejected from pro-LGBT parade ‘to protect participants’
(2) ‘Don’t let corporations spoil the spirit of Pride’ [http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/12/corporations-spoil-the-spirit-of-pride-london]
(3) ‘From Stonewall to Austerity’ [http://www.counterfire.org/lgbt/15548-lgbt-history-month-from-stonewall-to-austerity]
(4) ‘Closing time for gay pubs – a new victim of London’s soaring property prices [http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/04/closing-time-gay-pubs-lgbt-venues-property-prices]
(5) ‘Keep HIV-positive migrants out of Britain, says Ukip’s Nigel Farage ‘[http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/10/nigel-farage-keep-hiv-positive-migrants-out-britain]
(6) The official shift from a ‘protest’ to a ‘parade’ occurred in 2004, costing £100,000 extra each year to hold and necessitating the kind of commercialisation has been repelling many people from turning up each year. From the article ‘Is Pride today about gay rights or just partying?’ published in the Guardian, July 2012
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