By C.J. LAPOINTE
Outnumbering the “Straight Pride” parade participants, counter-protesters dominated and framed the discussion on Saturday, Aug. 31, as the fascist/Alt-Right tried to co-opt the LGBTQIA community’s Pride events with the hateful message of “Straight Pride” in Boston. While the left outnumbered the right, it was noticeably smaller than the 30,000-person response to a fascist/alt-right demonstration in Boston in 2017.
Eric Maroney, a participant in the counter-protest and an independent socialist from Connecticut, writes, “Unlike 2017 and 2018, the alt-right was able to successfully march and hold a rally for several hours. The alt-right crowd was modestly larger but significantly more racially diverse and sophisticated in its messaging than past years. The anti-LGBT focus cut across racial divisions and featured Latinx and African American speakers.”
The fascists and alt-right have always been good in adapting messaging to attract layers of the middle and working class to their ranks. It’s no accident that the Nazi party used the word “socialist” at a time when hundreds of thousands of workers were in the ranks of the Social Democratic and Communist parties in Germany. Behind clever messaging is still the same message of hate.
Why is “straight pride” hateful? Saying “straight pride” is like saying “white pride.” Our entire society is set up first and foremost for the wealthy and then in the interests of straight and white people. LGBTQIA people and people of color had to fight their way into the political life of American society, and more often than not it was people of color from the LGBTQIA community leading that fight.
Today, the phrase “straight pride” is being used as a battering ram by the fascist and alt-right groups to rally their base against what they see as the rise of a “degenerate culture” of the LGBTQIA, immigrant, Black, and Muslim communities, which threaten to wipe away their privileges. Just because the march was racially diverse doesn’t make the politics any different. While still in a nucleus form, the fascist/alt-right movement in this country is attracting new recruits every day.
We’ve seen two approaches taken by the fledgling fascists and ultra-right in the U.S. First there are a growing number of murders and physical attacks against LGBTQIA, immigrant, Muslim, Jewish, and Black communities. For example, former police Captain Thomas Woodworth, who drove his truck into an immigrant rights protest at a detention center in Rhode Island, or the murder of Pebbles LaDime Doe of South Carolina. She was the 14th Black transgender woman murdered this year.
As far as we know, these are individual acts of violence, but we also know that there are fascist/alt-right discussions on websites, subreddits, militias, and in political organizations that help lay the ideological base for these attacks.
Second, there are public rallies like the “Straight Pride” parade trying to make the presence of fascism normal for middle-class and working-class people. The program of these ultra-right-wing forces was on display in Boston. Pro-Trump parade floats read, “Build the Wall.” There were also a number of pro-military signs, Israeli flags, and of course anti-LGBTQIA signs.
Police revealed which side they are on by attacking and pepper spraying peaceful counter-protesters. Nine were sent to the hospital. Zoey, a Bridgeport, Conn., DSA member, attended the counter-protest and had this to say, “The way I saw it, the police and the (Straight Pride) marchers were one and the same. They would not have been able to march without the police being there. We clashed with the cops more than we did with any fascist marchers, and they were violent before the parade even started.
“While we were rallying outside of the park and along the parade route, the police frequently opened up their own barricades to violently arrest and mace protesters who had done nothing wrong. This was entirely without provocation from any of us. Once the parade started, we followed them along their route, and by the time we got to the end it seemed to be that the police were there waiting for us, where they again came onto our side of the barricade to beat people and make arrests.”
Zoey also said, “I was inspired by the brave antifascists who showed up to confront fascists previously in Portland and Charlottesville. This event cut especially deep since I am a lesbian trans woman. I wanted to be a part of the thousands of protesters there to show them that their hate and bigotry would not be tolerated. I also wanted to lend my support to my comrades and fellow queer folks in Boston, who didn’t ask for these people to come to their city.”
Similarly Molly, @socialistdogmom, live tweeted, “police just broke through their own barricade and stormed the sidewalk, tackling a group of people standing on the sidewalk, pointing pepper spray at us, and carrying at least three people away. i have no idea why and i was five feet away from them.”
Police as an armed wing of the capitalist state enforce the law and order of the wealthy elite. The bosses and their cronies are trying their best to maintain divisions in the working class and keep the oppressed in the shadows, put them behind bars, or murder them.
The “Straight Pride” march puts into context the meaning of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion with what’s happening now in 2019. The popular TV show “Pose” is, of course, politically not perfect but an important celebration and emotional reminder of the late-1980s New York City ballroom culture, LGBTQIA struggles against HIV/AIDS, and the fight for civil rights. It is also a perfect example of what the fascists and alt-right see as a threat.
The “Timber Army” supporters of the professional soccer club in Portland, Ore., Timbers, are fervent anti-fascists known for singing the Italian anti-fascist song “Ciao Bella” during matches. They gave us a refreshing example of organizing against fascism by defying Major League Soccer’s ban of political signs. The ban was specifically targeted at the anti-fascist fans in Portland. With the support of a number of the players, the normally raucous crowd organized 30 minutes of silence at the start of the match, followed by an explosion of people waving anti-fascist flags and banners.
We have not yet seen the full scope of a fascist movement in the U.S. There is no mass workers’ movement undermining the stability of the class dynamics and threatening to thrust the working class to power. The ruling rich can still maintain control within the framework of a capitalist “democracy.” But with the rise of economic crisis, increased strikes, and a growing interest in socialism among working-class youth, the capitalist class may think that a fascist movement in its initial phase may be useful to have on hand. In the absence of a mass socialist or workers’ party, the capitalists, who have think tanks and strategists running around the clock, understand the ebbs and flows of working-class upsurges in this moment far better than the workers’ movement does.
For activists and socialists, opposition to the fascists and alt-right means continually mobilizing the largest and broadest layers of the working class. We need hundreds of thousands in the streets; we should be agitating in our unions, deepening our educational efforts, and building our organizations.
Today, the Boston Police Union is calling for prosecutions of protesters arrested at the “Straight Pride” parade. Readers should be ready to mobilize against police brutality and defend these activists against unjust prosecutions. This further highlights the bankruptcy of police unions and how the labor and LGBTQIA movements have no business associating with them.