Queers Against Cuts and a failure of Pride

Brighton’s annual Pride procession is one of the City’s great events – a day when the City can collectively let its hair down in celebration of its diversity. Sadly, at today’s Pride, a line appears to have been crossed that suggests that the event has lost its soul.

The issue concerns the treatment of a group called Queers Against Cuts, who, having been accepted by Pride organisers as a participant in the parade, were subjected to what looks like disgraceful and spiteful treatment by organisers and police.  The organiser of the group tells the full story here but in summary, it appears that having been accepted by the Pride organisers as part of the procession, the Group was, at the insistence of the police, moved to the back of the procession directly in front of police and made subject to some sort of police containment – the group say they were kettled, the police reject the use of the word, but this looks more like a case of semantics than substance.  Whatever the case, they were subjected to treatment that was rather different to that afforded to other participants.

The Pride organisers have started to talk about politicisation.  It’s a feeble argument that does them no credit.  The four main political parties in Brighton had floats – even the Liberal Democrats, of whom nothing has been heard since last year’s local election rout, managed to field a presence.  Of those four parties, three are explicit supporters of a cuts agenda; the fourth, the Green Party, runs a minority administration in Brighton that is reluctantly making cuts.  Trade Unionists were out in force; the Queers Against Cuts float was due to be immediately behind the NUT.

It is to Green MP Caroline Lucas’ immense credit that she intervened on Queers Against Cuts’ behalf, but the damage was done.  And on Twitter and elsewhere, the Tory trolls have been out; QAC demonised as a small group hell-bent on disruption, spoiling Pride for the majority.  Except they weren’t – there’s no evidence to support that contention.  As far as I can see QAC were out to make a point and make a bit of noise – no different from other participants.

Moreover, the “politicisation” angle misses an essential point.  Pride is political.  A public event that celebrates equality and diversity must be political in the society in which we live, when inequality and prejudice remain that society’s default mode.  Pride started as a demonstration for equal treatment by the police, in the days when targeting gay men was still an officially-sanctioned tactic, and when the then Tory Government was entrenching homophobia through the notorious Section 28; as debates about equal marriage and issues like the way in which society treats disabled people or the homeless rage in modern Britain, it remains that any event that celebrates equality and diversity must be political.  The organisers, now perhaps mesmerised by that offensive phrase “the pink pound” seem to have lost sight of this.

As I said, a line has been crossed.  Pride, long a part of Brighton life, has become mainstream – more than one watcher commented on the commercialism of this year’s procession.  Add to that  a system of police intelligence-gathering that sustains and justifies itself by the collection of information on “activists” – the majority of whom have not been arrested and have no criminal record – and you have the recipe for events like today’s, in which permission to participate stops at the boundaries of political consensus.

It is ironic that organisers and police working together as they appear to have done today would have excluded, by the same rationale, the founders of Pride.  Perhaps today has seen the end of Pride as we have known it; a once-radical event made safe for neoliberalism which allows participants to congratulate themselves on being “edgy” while challenging nobody. When one sees reactionaries tweeting in defence of the spirit of Pride, one senses that the game is up.  And, as a Brightonian for more than a quarter of a century, I’d find that ineffably sad.

9 thoughts on “Queers Against Cuts and a failure of Pride

  1. Brighton Pride have sent a message out which is loud and clear – they only want to have a party.

    That is not “Pride”.

    Perhaps it’s time we reclaimed Pride from the sell-out mob and had an independent Pride which can be political – a bit like when Hastings Old Town Carnival broke away from Hastings Carnival in the 70s because the Old Town was not included.

    The organisers first tried to exclude on basis of cost by charging £17,50 on the gate at the party, and then attempted to exclude a group showing the true spirit of Pride because they were “political” and a protest movement – something that Pride started out as.

    Pride is about saying that we are not going to allow the exclusion of minorities from society – not getting pissed.

    Solidarity to QAC.

  2. Your sad little group of ‘rent a thug’ protesters where heard to be abusive by the groups around you at set up and a formal complaint was made. I notice that your group also included people from ban eco, the campaign for squatters rights and the camp in a field to piss off brighton brigade – oh and most funnily an ex worker for Pride who was paid to help organise last years parade.

    Then when you dont get your own way you stamp your collective feet, throw a tantrum and call your MP, Peter Tatchell and the Argus to moan and groan – how very sad.

    Your inaccurate reports (blatant lies) are objectionable at best and certainly do not represent Brighton Pride or the gay rights movement.

    Then when you do the typical emotional blackmail bulls*it you get no sympathy.

    You and your sorry bunch of thugs where a travesty of humanity and certainly should be banned from any further involvement in Pride.

    Sadly you and your crusty comrades will probably now have another tantrum and throw even more abuse around to try and justify your pathetic attempts at political campaigning.

  3. Stonewall was a riot, and I am not a thug. You owe your freedom to those willing to challenge abuses of power. Gay rights are human rights. Queers Against the Cuts did not have a tantrum. They complied with the ridiculous last minute decision to be put at the back. There was no abuse going on whatsoever, from the side of QAC. Standing with and for those most threatened by the cuts, and cruel changes in the law is a humane response to an inhumane system, which you are obviously a staunch supporter of.

  4. As Katy says, the Police were active in the weeks before the march harrassing and gathering intelligence on Queers Against the Cuts and UK Uncut. There was a time when Pride meant something – when being gay meant fighting the prejudices of society and the attacks of the Right, who have not gone away.

    But now people like ‘witness’ ( to what I wonder?) are happy to echo the lies of those who used to indulge in a spot of gay bashing in order to curry favour. Some people have very short memories or no memory at all. The Police who used to hang around public toilets arresting gay men are now ‘witness’ best friends.

    Pass the sick bag Alice.

    Tony Greenstein

    PS: But at least the Police managed an enormous own goal because it’s all over the internet and in the nationals. So well done Beth and co.

  5. The fact is that homosexuality has nothing to do with ones position on government spending. That the left expected automatic acceptance by “marginalised groups” shows them to be kind of naive. With homosexuality increasingly not marginalised there is even less reason for them to expect that. I suspect most homosexuals are glad to be increasingly less marginalised and not sad about the fact it means they are less predisposed to radicalism (although everyone likes to think they are radical on some level for some reason). Maybe the left should stand on it’s own two feet and not expect automatic allegiences on the basis of identity politics.

    The mainstream right now are fine with homosexuals, the only ones who aren’t are curmudeony back benchers who will never be allowed off their leashes and people from marginal parties who will never have power like the BNP (and even they are loosening their line from “teh ebil gays must be beaten!!!!” to “don’t ask don’t tell” – sure it’s not perfect but it’s a start – the discourse is already transformed now it’s just a matter of the stragglers in society catching up).

  6. Pingback: Just how radical is Brighton’s political culture? | Notes from a Broken Society

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