Anonymous submission to Conflict MN
Stonewall was a riot. The chant echoed off the buildings lining Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis as we marched. The sidewalks were filled with thousands of onlookers, expecting to see the annual Pride parade, but instead they saw us. We were maybe one hundred, maybe a little more. One banner leading the way proclaimed “No Cops In Pride.” It was a very loose assortment of activist organizations, radical queers, and even some anarchists. At a snail’s pace, we made our way down the length of the Parade route.
The intention of the demonstration was to disrupt the Pride parade. And by that measurement, it was successful. The parade started around an hour late, and progressed slowly behind us, keeping it’s distance. Given how Pride has been so detached from it’s rebellious roots by way of corporate sponsorship, our desire to interrupt it is clearly a rightful inclination. However, despite our apparent success in doing so, we can go beyond this and take practical steps to materialize our stated desires.
Most striking about the demonstration was the ease with which rhetoric that would be deemed too militant—as if there was such a thing—was taken up by participants. While still many chanted to “prosecute the police”, there were several signs sporting the acronym for “fuck the police” as well. Anarchist and anti-fascist imagery and slogans were easy to spot. Just as many decried capitalism wholesale and called for total police abolition as those who sported pins for electoral campaigns.
Now, this isn’t to complain that the messaging wasn’t “radical enough” or that there wasn’t ideological purity. Really, the rhetoric present reflected a diverse range of perspectives who could find common ground in the rejection of this world—a world where the police who kill with impunity expect our unconditional welcoming into celebrations of resistance. While in the recent past, those who didn’t believe that this was an issue of “bad apple” police officers would likely feel isolated amongst crowds demanding body cameras or a similar reform, the message here was different.
The message was different, and yet the actions the same. While the demonstration did actually disrupt the parade, calling it direct action would be fairly generous. The march was centered around using the visibility of the parade to boost awareness for the cause. If we really believe that in police abolition, for example, we can’t simply continue to stand in the streets, demanding it happen. How can we say that “stonewall was a riot,” and yet deny ourselves this same capacity for revolt?
However, this is also not a call for an abstract militancy. This is about posing a question: to all of us who reject this world, how can we bring about a better world ourselves? Starting from what we have—our skills, resources, and most importantly, our friends—we can build a reality where “no cops in pride” isn’t a demand, it’s a warning. But first, we’ll have to toss off the activist rituals we’ve become accustomed to.