The Seattle Police department tried to jump onto the whole corporate-liberal “gay rights” bandwagon with its recent release of the “It Gets Better” video interviewing gay police officers and exemplifying how tolerant the department is.
Yet, we are reminded again, that the state never makes things better for queers, and things will only get better if we rebel and defend ourselves. In Seattle, a group of 50 people were attacked by the Seattle Police Department, for dancing on the streets on Saturday night of Pride weekend. The videos here and here depict the level of violence by the SPD. Even mainstream news outlets like The Stranger are picking up on how damn outrageous it was.
This video says it all…
The Seattle Police responded with their usual black baiting, citing the violence that presumably black block anarchists were allegedly going to inflict on the city on Pride weekend. In an interview with the Capitol Hill News, the head of the SPD East Precinct, Ron Wilson claims that “marchers circled and attempted to enter areas near the various Pride beer gardens operating along E Pike,” and that “his officers reported that individuals wearing backpacks in the crowd were starting to put on bandanas”
In fact, people who have attended the action did not witness this. And many people, not just anarchists, wear bandanas these days in Seattle considering how much the cops like to unexpectedly use pepper spray (bandanas can help lessen it’s effect). In any case, this police talking point about “anarchists” is yet another tiring, boring excuse used by the Seattle Police to cover its own long history of police brutality. And even if anarchists were there, so what? Anarchists are part of our communities, and their presence does not justify police violence.
We are reminded of the history of an earlier gay rights organization, the Mattachine society in the McCarthyist era, where anti-communist red-baiting was tied to the policing of masculinity as well as attacks on queers. In the Cold War era, state sanctioned masculinity meant conforming to the nationalist, racist, heterosexist patriarchal agenda of the state – being a good, strong, American man ready to fight the commies and beat Third World countries into submission. Anyone who deviated from that norm was considered a deviant, a homosexual, an undesirable, a Communist. As John D’Emillio has documented well in his excellent book, “Making Trouble,” the political motivations behind red baiting and queer bashing were similar and enacted hand in hand.
Today, we see the reinvention of this narrative with anti-anarchist black baiting. Queers who don’t follow the proper rules of engagement of corporate, state sanctioned, anti-Stonewall Pride, are then immediately seen as “anarchists, ” “black block” and dangerous threats to public safety. The police might claim that their violence was not gay bashing because they attacked people for being protestors, not for being queer. What they mean is that to be exempt from brutal state violence, LGBTQ people cannot act queer. We cannot act deviant and we cannot step out of the straight line of conformity. We must stay on the sidewalks and pay to party in expensive bars, we cannot dance in the streets and if we do we are “anarchists”, not LGBTQ. According to the sadistic logic of the system, “everyone” knows anarchists deserve it when the police attack them.
It is not a surprise that any time upsurges that go beyond the control of the state and its institutions (including non profits and other social democratic organizations), the perpetrators are similarly assumed to be black block anarchists, and presumably white and male. What better way to make invisible the fact that the growing global economic crisis is expanding the layer of militant queers and people of color, anarchist or not, who find no reason to obey?
In an interview, Seattle Police East Precinct Commander Ron Wilson makes statements that could sow divisions within the queer community at a time when we need solidarity more than ever. He claims that the violence against the dance party this year was not homophobic because the police presence on Capitol Hill was done at the request of LGBTQ-oriented businesses like the Wild Rose. This is a reference to the incidents that took place in last year’s Queer Fucking Queers dance party, where bars around Capitol Hill, including the Wild Rose, the only lesbian bar in the area, were attacked by some queer people on Pride weekend. In the aftermath of this event, some reports accused these bars of being “anti-youth, ” “yuppie,” and “assimilationist,” but other queer folks felt these bars, however flawed, are important community gathering spaces and the people inside should not have been subjected to the fears that arose during the action. In fact, the targeting of queer bars on Pride weekend left some survivors of anti-queer violence feeling traumatized and triggered. The incident caused a lot of bad blood and internal divisions among various queer communities. However, as this article expresses, there were also differing views among the participants of the event last year, and steps taken toward a community dialogue.
The Seattle Police, recognizing the divisions that arose out of last year’s events, shamelessly use it to justify their police brutality. What better way to foster increased divide and conquer, by demonizing one queer community, and pretending to protect another?
There will be a solidarity event this Friday (June 29th 2012) at 8pm, in remembrance of Stonewall, called in response to last weekend’s brutality. We recognize that there may be existing tension and anger from the events that took place last year. However, we also hope that all who don’t think queers should be beaten by police will come out to support this demonstration this year. In light of the recent murder of a young lesbian couple in Portland, Texas, killed presumably for being gay, as well as the state sanctioned transphobia against Cece McDonald, our unity is more needed than ever. We need to come together as a broad, diverse community, to say that police violence is never acceptable, whether it’s done against queers, people of color, anarchists, youth, or anyone else. We may be oppressed in different ways, but our collective willingness to disobey societies’ norms and the police orders that enforce them are what make our struggles a vibrant challenge to all systems of oppression.
The police have said they will use similar tactics on Friday night that they used last week. This could be a new pattern of policing here, where the cops try to break up any unpermitted street demonstrations (Mic Check Wallstreet, an openly “nonviolent”, civil-disobedience -oriented grouping had an unpermitted Montreal Solidarity/ anti-student debt march last week which also faced arrests). Given this, Friday’s demonstration could be a test to see whether or not the police have the power to shut down unpermitted demonstrations, and whether the movement has the capacity to withstand this kind of repression, a capacity that was built through countless occupations and street marches since Decolonize/ Occupy Seattle erupted on the scene this fall .
Our strength is in numbers, and this event will be safer for everyone the more of us mobilize and come together. So please invite your friends, lovers, coworkers, and neighbors.
Please come through at 7pm to the vigil for Mary Christine Chapa and Mollie Judith Olgin, the teen couple killed in Portland, Texas. The facebook event is here. At 8pm, following that, will be the solidarity action.
On a lighter note, here are some pictures from us crashing the corporate Pride parade with a Pink Bloc that had fun without paying the ridiculously high registration fee. We won’t pay, to be queer! The Pink Bloc originated at May Day and its participants have created a range of creative forms of queer resistance, from the organization Glitur, to the “Drag Out Capitalism” drag show during Pride weekend. A vibrant, radical queer movement is emerging in Seattle, and the police are not going to stop us.