From ‘Lula Livre’ to ‘F*ck the Police’, pride is political!

On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots LGBTQ prides across the Americas have taken on a very overtly political and radical stand, after years of being little more than apolitical spectacles

June 30, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Participants in the pride march in Toronto with 'Fight for 15' placards. Photo: SAMUEL ENGELKING

This Pride Month, LGBTQ pride parades have turned significantly political, with debates on police participation, refugee rights and the global shift towards far-right tendencies. The pride parades and marches that are often celebrated in the month of June around the world, this year were in many places political mobilizations after years of remaining an apolitical spectacle.

The slogan “Lula Livre” reverberated across Sao Paulo in Brazil, as 3 million participants flooded the streets of the city. A large component of the pride parade this year was to mobilize against the increasingly conservative and regressive political climate fostered under the government of president Jair Bolsonaro. Many also expressed their solidarity to the former president Lula da Silva who has been in prison since April 2018 due to a politically motivated sham trial.

Participants in Sao Paulo pride with a Free Lula banner.
From Sao Paulo pride “I am proud to say, I did not vote for this garbage! FASCIST OUT!”


A different, yet equally political discourse was witnessed in the North America. In St. Louis, Missouri in the US the Metro Trans Umbrella Group, one of the largest trans-rights organisation in the city, withdrew from the city’s pride parade even though they were the Pride Marshalls. The MTUG were reportedly disappointed by the decision to have uniformed police in the pride, which they argued was insensitive to the larger transcommunity who are among the worst victims of police violence in the US.

In Canada, organizers have echoed called for “police out of pride” and Toronto and other Canadian cities have vociferously opposed police participation in the march. Last weekend, in the pride celebration in Hamilton, Ontario, homophobic and xenophobic thugs violently attacked participants and many denounced that local police did very little to prevent the attacks.

A participant in Toronto pride highlights the need to protect Black queer and transgender people who disproportionately suffer from institutional violence and from fascist hate crimes. Photo: SAMUEL ENGELKING

The question of police participation in pride has, over the past several years, been a major point of a major controversy across North America. For many, police participation is antithetical to the origin of pride. The first pride marches and LGBTQ demonstrations in the US between 1969 and 1970, began as a marches against the widely publicized police violence against an LGBTQ bar, Stonewall Inn in New York City. However, by the late 1990s and 2000s, many pride marches began inducting uniformed police officers to participate in the pride, even though police violence against LGBTQ people, especially transgender people and queer people of color has not seen any significant decline. However, in recent years activists within the community have increasingly resisted “pink-washing” of the police and taken strong stances against their participation.

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were prominent figures in the queer liberation movement and played a central role in the Stonewall uprising and the organizing afterwards.