Chants of “Free Chelsea Manning!” rang out on the streets of Baltimore during the city’s annual LGBTQ2S Pride Parade on June 15. Members of the Peoples Power Assembly, Baltimore Peace Action, Struggle-La Lucha, the Socialist Unity Party and Youth Against War and Racism formed an anti-imperialist contingent in this year’s parade.
Carrying a banner highlighting both Chelsea Manning and Marielle Franco, which included large pictures of both women, the contingent raised the call to free Manning and honor the name of Franco, a Brazilian queer activist who was murdered for organizing in opposition to the ultraright in that country. The banner drew much applause along the march route. Many people joined the chants to free Chelsea Manning, with some pumping their fists into the air.
The anti-imperialist contingent set the political tone of the parade, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, when trans people of color along with other LGBTQ2S patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, fought back against another police raid. Though the rebellion ended after three nights, it was the spark that ignited the modern LGBTQ2S rights movement.
The contingent also carried large placards of Marsha P. Johnson, who along with Sylvia Rivera refused to be arrested that night and started the rebellion. An additional banner reading “Stonewall still means fight back” by Struggle-La Lucha newspaper and the Socialist Unity Party received much applause from onlookers, with several shouting to the contingent, “Yes, it still does!”
Youth Against War and Racism members led the chants, which also connected with the struggle for immigrant rights, against attacks on the LGBTQ2S community and against the increasing corporatization of Pride parades.
This year many Pride parades have contingents or separately organized actions speaking out against this increase of corporate floats that take away from the original meaning of Pride as a rebellion against so much police oppression of the community. This oppression still continues today, especially against trans women. These contingents also raise the call “Police out of Pride,” citing their continuing attacks against communities of color and immigrants, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.
The solidarity continued June 16 at the annual Pride Festival held in Druid Hill Park. Festival attendees stopped by the anti-imperialist booth to discuss Chelsea Manning’s current status and to get information on Marielle Franco, whose political assasination is not widely known in this country. On both days, informational leaflets about these heroic women were widely distributed.
Black Alliance for Peace-Baltimore Chapter members participated and also staffed the table in a show of solidarity with the LGBTQ2S community, along with the Communist Party of Baltimore and Maryland. A special Pride edition of Struggle-La Lucha newspaper was distributed.