Five arrests were made at this year’s Pride Glasgow march on Saturday 19th August. Those arrested, including a minor, had been in separate parts of the march: two had belonged to the left-wing IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) bloc, whereas the other three were protesting the decision for the Gay Police Association Scotland (GPA) to lead the march itself.
The debate over the role and purpose of Pride has surfaced in recent years – groups of LGBTQ+ activists, nationwide and across the globe, have campaigned to actively reclaim the political element of Pride from corporations. Protests took place at June’s Pride Edinburgh march against the role of banks and businesses at pride, and this weekend Free Pride Glasgow celebrated its third year of running a radical alternative. The protest group, from which three members were arrested, were against GPA Scotland leading the parade. Mat who was part of the group, tells qmunicate they ‘were protesting the inclusion of uniformed police due to their history of racism and disproportionate violence against queer and trans people’. It is important we remember the roots of modern pride: the Stonewall riots, at the Stonewall Inn, USA, were led by trans women of colour against a police raid of the famous LGBTQ+ venue. The first pride marches took place on the first anniversary of the riots and they are considered today the catalyst for the USA’s gay liberation movement.
This wouldn’t be the first time that uniformed police presence was protested. Last summer Black Lives Matter Toronto shut down the city’s Pride march, refusing to move until demands – including a ban on police forces marching in uniform or carrying guns – were met by organisers. Closer to home, Pride in London’s march – officially led by forces including uniformed police officers – was successfully reclaimed by protest groups including Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and No Pride In War. Rob, who was arrested at Pride Glasgow, was also involved in the London campaign.
‘Pride in London is a much bigger event, yet when we completed that action we received nothing but fairly polite requests from stewards. [Police Scotland’s] level of brutality was unprecedented; there was no negotiation or request for us to leave and handcuffs were out in a matter of minutes.’ Rob and their fellow activists were released from police custody the same day.
The two marchers arrested from the IWW bloc included a sixteen-year old minor, arrested seemingly for carrying a placard saying: ‘These faggots [sic] fight fascists’. A statement on the Clydeside IWW Facebook page appears to have been written by the fourth arrestee, in which the person (named only as Panos) says charges brought against them include obstruction of the police, resistance to arrest, and intimidation of officers.
Mat further commented that the minor’s arrest appears disproportionate. ‘Myself and others carried signs and chanted similar reclaimed slurs – why weren’t we arrested?’ He adds that there was also a small group of religious preachers near the start of the march, as well, who actively used slurs at individuals.
Pride Glasgow released a statement on Sunday evening regarding the events, denouncing the acts of ‘a small group […] tried to target the Parade yesterday […] [and] jeopardised the safety of everyone attending the parade’. They affirmed their support of Police Scotland’s actions and ‘the participation of uniformed services in the Parade, including the police’. Mat describes the statement as ‘designed to demonise the protesters and justify police action and violence.’ The comments beneath the Facebook post remain divided.
Protests continued until Monday 21st August outside of the Sherriff Court, where cases were heard for the arrested. As of Monday evening, all five appear to have been freed, with charges brought against one individual. The events, and subsequent response, will continue to divide Glasgow attitudes towards Pride into two categories: Pride as a fun celebration, and Pride as a means for liberation.
[Amy Shimmin – @amylfc]