In the wee small hours of this morning, at 2am, a contingent of activists from ACT UP London, Queer Strike, and No Pride in War gathered at Piccadilly Circus to perform an action in remembrance of victims of weapons violence at Pulse nightclub (Orlando), La Madame night club (Veracruz) and the Admiral Duncan pub (London).
Respectively, 2 weeks, 1 month and 17 years ago, these atrocities bring home to us that violence against LGBTQIA+ people is increasing, and sometimes going unreported. There appears to be an intensified idea that people can plan to kill ‘others’ with weapons they create or gain easy access to. Also, there is a strange reframing of how our governments justify attacks on other nations.
Some people might think I just made a mad leap there. But think about this: BAE systems (UK) will sell arms to Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen; BAE systems manufactured the Red Arrows that flew over Pride in London, in what the RAF refer to as part of a recruitment drive. These Red Arrow models are combat jets that are used by Saudi to bomb civilians. How can it possibly be ok to allow LGBTQIA+ to be the justification of a recruitment drive for murders and increased military presence on our Pride event, especially in the wake of Orlando and Veracruz? What we understand of ‘security’ and ‘protection’ must be placed under scrutiny.
We can’t unpack the minds of the people who shot and bombed groups of LGBTQIA+ at places queer family believed to be safe, queer spaces. But we do know that intolerance played a key role in many aspects around these murders: ostracising, self-hate, killing, silencing, hiding, reporting, news broadcasting, and so on.
In Orlando, two weeks ago at 9pm (2am in London), young folks were preening themselves, making phone calls to friends, planning what to wear and how to travel to Pulse nightclub for an evening of fun with mates, regular punters and strangers. Hours later, their names formed a growing list of fatalities in a shocking event, ‘the worst mass shooting in recent US history’. In the wake of feverish international reports on the massacre, a crack in the cloak of silence that hid the Mexico mass shooting at La Madame nightclub began to open, but it left us wondering whether this was a national cover up, or a story overlooked.
So we met at 2am this morning and we read text on a cycle for 30 minutes, as a group. Strangers stopped to watch and some joined in at random, dunk or sober. We handed out information that explained how we, as participants, are committed to working towards a better understanding across our communities and to strengthen our campaign tactics for an end to violence against all people. We feel it is vital to publicly engage with people and make space available for them to easily connect on these issues.
As Mexico’s first openly gay mayor, Benjamin Medrano, stated in response to the Veracruz shootings, “If we were more educated, we would be less violent; the problem begins when we disrespect our fellow men“ (I’m sure he meant people of all genders).
LGBTQIA+ lives matter. All lives matter.
No pride in homophobia.
Solidarity is survival.
No pride in racism.
Immigration is valuable.
No pride in war.
Art is a weapon.
No pride in corporate greed.
Individual stories matter.
No pride in borders.
We can be friends.
No pride in detention centres.
We have heart.
No pride in transphobia.
History involves everyone.
No pride in arms dealing
We can be more evolved.
No Pride in bombing Syria.
Humanity’s ancient civilization.
No pride in easy arms access.
We must not be collateral damage.
No pride in silence.
Pulse family are in our words.
No pride in blaming lone wolves.
When society is complicit.
No pride in blaming minorities.
They build healthy societies.
No pride in forgetting.
Admiral Duncan still hurts.
No pride in colonial legacy.
Ignorance doesn’t make it alright.
No pride in hiding La Madame.
Truth will surface.
LONDON PRIDE 2016
No Pride in War is a coalition of LGBTQI+ and anti-war activists.
We demand the cancellation of the Red Arrows fly past, as well as the withdrawal of BAE Systems from the parade, which is a company that not only profits from war, but also incentivises it.
The Red Arrows serve two purposes; to promote recruitment into the Royal Air Force, and to promote British arms sales internationally, for companies like BAE Systems, who have been invited to the parade.
Pride is being used within a wider public relations strategy that aims to capture the imagination of the public whilst concealing the brutal nature of warfare and the gruesome trade of the arms industry.
Celebrating and promoting institutions of war, that profit from the planning and execution of warfare globally, is an affront to the values that LGBTQI+ movements, and indeed Pride itself, have been built on. There is No Pride in War.
NO PRIDE IN WAR @ THE MOD
Last night #NoPrideinWar activists made a visit to the Ministry of Defence to demand the cancellation of the Red Arrows fly over at this years Pride..
We processed from Trafalgar Square with the coffin handing out lots of flyers on the way.
We laid a coffin and the No Pride in War flowers in front of the main entrance/exit and had our banners facing the workers as they left.
A big police presence arrived and began diverting MOD workers out of a side exit. We caused the main exit route to be closed down between 5 and 6pm.
There was persistant chanting and speakers from a wide range of backgrounds.
Anyone leaving or entering the building will have seen the demo. Senior people inside will have been briefed about the demo by the cops.
Keep an eye on our facebook page for campaign updates.
NO RED ARROWS DEMO
Thursday 9 June 2016 – 5pm
Meet at the lions, Trafalgar Square.
ARE YOU ANGRY ABOUT THE MILITARY PRESENCE AT LONDON PRIDE? Come and tell the Ministry of Defence that the Red Arrows are NOT WELCOME at this year’s Pride.
Meet at the lions under Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square at 5 PM on Thursday, to march and shout with a coffin and banners to the Ministry of Defence Main Building.
Say it LOUD and PROUD: there is #NoPrideInWar.
NO PRIDE IN WAR VIGIL
Last night (Tuesday 24 June), outraged by the announcement that the Red Arrows would be flying over London Pride this year, a coalition of queer and anti-war groups protested both in and outside London City Hall. A peace vigil was held, while activists distributed flyers and held “No Pride in War” placards. Both actions were based on stances on lesbian and gay participation in the military which differ from those of London Pride.
No Pride in War started as a campaign because people were shocked by news that London Pride 2016 will include a performance by the Red Arrows, and that the arms manufacturer BAE Systems will be in the parade.
The Red Arrows put on air shows, and act as the ‘public’ face of the Royal Air Force. In this capacity, they promote both recruitment, and sympathy for the British military.
The Red Arrows fly a version of the British Aerospace Hawk trainer aircraft. BAE is the UK’s largest arms manufacturer, and exports weapons around the world, including to the US, where it also manufactures major weapons systems.
BAE System’s weapons are currently playing a major role in Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen. Its Typhoon and Tornado warplanes have been used in combat missions by the Saudi Air Force; it maintains and provides operational support for the planes; thousands of the company’s employees are stationed in Saudi Arabia, and play an active role in the country’s war efforts. Furthermore, BAE Systems is selling weapons to Saudi Arabia with the full support of the British government and military.
As activists and queer people, our group finds it deeply offensive that London Pride is providing a platform for the RAF, and BAE Systems, to promote themselves. We are people who believe in Pride, and how it marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
It is a contradiction of Pride’s own values, built on principled confrontations with hyperactive police, to essentially celebrate war. The Royal Air Force, and companies like BAE Systems, cannot be allowed to use Pride to appear queer-friendly, as though the human suffering that they cause is irrelevant.
Before hearing about the Red Arrows, and BAE Systems marching in the Pride parade, it was already concerning to see the increased corporate presence at London Pride. Invitations have been extended to financial institutions like Barclays Bank in recent years, in order to exploit the “pink pound.” Last year, even UKIP was invited, sparking protests.
Defenders of these moves will often say that these organisations have been inclusive of gay and lesbian members. However, whether or not people are individually able to express their sexuality is irrelevant to how these organisations actually behave. If London Pride isn’t willing to speak to the obvious problems of wealth inequality, and power imbalances, that Barclays, the RAF, and BAE Systems help generate, then what’s the point?
No Pride in War operates in the legacy of radical queer protest, and demands major changes in London Pride. Pride does not, and cannot, simply mean an apolitical party where people see no ethical problem with the presence of banks and armies.
It is essential that Pride-goers resist the temptation to indulge in what Jaspir Puar calls “homonationalism.” Puar argues that recent victories for LGBTQI+ people in countries like the United States have occurred on a backdrop of economic inequality, and aggressive foreign policy. Puar argues that as a result, there is currently “a constitutive and fundamental reorientation of the relationship between the state, capitalism, and sexuality.”
Puar argues that homonationalism is inescapable. Everyone is conditioned by it, and it shapes the world around us. However, it still possible to push against certain troublesome expressions of it. London Pride is just one opportunity to resist this new marriage between sexuality, and financial and military power. Celebrating and promoting war, and those firms that profit from it, is an affront to the values that LGBTQI+ movements have been built on.
We demand the unreserved withdrawal of the invitation for BAE Systems to march in this year’s parade, as well as the planned flyover by the RAF’s Red Arrows. Pride has always been an event that radically challenges gendered and sexual oppression. There can be No Pride in War.
Originally published at Souciant Magazine
Photographs courtesy of Clement Alloing and Matt Boner. Published under a Creative Commons license.
No Red Arrows at Pride
Vigil with us outside of City Hall and let the organisers of Pride know that the Red Arrows are not welcome at this years parade.
Tuesday 24 May 2016
City Hall, Queens Walk, SE1 2AA
(Nearest tube is London Bridge)