Opinion: Gay Pride Parade or Protest?

The annual LA Pride Parade is the loudest celebration showcasing LGBT pride. On a parade route you can feel the living soul of Pride. An unabashed celebration. A full display of our community. Unity among groups. The breadth of our community in full view for all to join. The good times are the most glorious of days.

Way back in 1969, when I was a ten-year-old tot, there was this riot in New York City at a gay club called Stonewall. It was the first time the gays stuck together and fought back against the police. They weren’t giving up. And the spark to the flame of the modern gay rights movement began.

Larry Block, The Block Party, West Hollywood City Council candidate
Larry Block

Think back on last year and the community revolt against Christopher Street West (CSW)’s decision to coin L.A. Pride as a music festival. CSW President Chris Classen proclaimed “our demographic is millennials.” We fought to restore Friday night free entry to the festival. We fought for lower ticket prices. We fought for more transgender programing, and we won.

I’m going to personally apologize for dropping the ball. By the time Pride ended and new members joined the CSW board I had confidence that they would find their way. Lauren Meister replaced John Duran on the City Council sub-committee to save Pride. We had a community outreach that turned into a mini-revolt. The city hired this marketing group that took over the meeting with questions like a poll, Ivy Bottini spoke up, and an outpouring came from the crowd. We wanted a say in the future of Pride. Lauren Meister took the ball in her hands on the subcommittee and as mayor. After a second community meeting there was zero follow up.

The community’s input was important because, with construction of West Hollywood Park, the footprint for the festival would be smaller. To my knowledge, we have not secured that additional space to date. With the resignations of some CSW members, the failure of the City Council subcommittee and with 90 days to go, we needed a plan.

Enter Brian Pendleton. Don Zuidema, the founder of LASC and a strong community advocate, called me to arrange a lunch. I met Brian Pendleton. I listened to his proposal. This very articulate, passionate, determined, seasoned and proud gay man said he was going to propose a protest – Resist — for pride and no parade. I listened to his proposal about beginning this protest from Hollywood to West Hollywood Park. “No parade,” I asked, “Why? Why can’t you do the protest to Crescent Heights, and then we celebrate with a parade?”

I kept sticking to those guns, and Brian kept sticking to his guns, and then we discussed logistics. How could it move forward, given the timetable and sense of urgency? Brian had a meeting that night with CSW, and I promised my support if he could move this ball forward. Then I called Henry Scott, the editor of this publication, who offered Brian op-ed space. He had his appointments lined up. My hour was up. Abbe Land was next.

Back to that Stonewall Inn, 1969. They marched. “Never again,” we cried. “We are not a mental disorder. We want the right to serve our country and love our best friend. We weren’t bad because we were gay.” We found ourselves in the mirror through what we are inside. Our genders identified. The pain of coming out running so deep in so many. “ AIDS came from God to put its evil curse on us.” “Fags.” “Kill this kid named Matthew Shepard. Tie him to a fence. That kid from Oklahoma hopping a bus to find his way to Hollywood. Selling his body on the streets.” Did anybody ever tell you that you were ok? For so many that gay Pride parade says you are ok. We celebrate you and say it proud.

The parade has changed, from a march with a sign from Stonewall to a liberation celebration to a music festival. Pride and Protest, they both carry a message. I haven’t quite figured out what exactly this protest is for or against, but I damn know what the parade is all about. So let’s march from Hollywood to Crescent Heights, and parade from Crescent Heights to Robertson. Yes we can have it all. A protest and a celebration.

But to facilitate the successful control of the Resist march, and the festival or parade I advocate for an emergency meeting of the CSW board of directors, which should ask for the resignation of Chris Classen and Craig Bowers as president and vice chair of CSW and then appoint Brian Pendleton as its interim president. The phoenix has risen. We can save Pride. Chris failed, Craig failed, and, sorry to say, the subcommittee of D’Amico and Meister failed.

So Brian, we can’t pick up the pieces for next year if we dismantle them this year. We need you to serve a two-year term and straighten this mess out. As the new acting president of CSW I support your initiatives and decisions in exchange for your commitment to serve a two-year term. Deal?

  1. Here’s a technical question. Isn’t CSW a 501(c)3 non-profit organization? If so, it cannot organize or participate in political actions. Isn’t a protest march a political action. The parade was to educate the community about our history, diversity, and more. A protest march is political. i see a potential conflict that could threaten CSW status as a non-profit under California law.

      1. While CSW isn’t putting on the march, technically, they saw which way the winds were blowing and so have come forward and said “what a fabulous idea” and “we will be official sponsors”. You will see that on their homepage, lapride.org, the second screen to pop up calls it an “LA Pride Project.” It seems that about the only thing lameass CSW can do correctly is grab onto someone else’s coattails and claim credit.

  2. Larry, what you propose sounds like it could be chaotic. Also, what about those that want to be in the parade *and* the march? Sounds like we’d have to make them choose, and that doesn’t seem like a good way to handle things.

    A march is something new, different, and necessary in these politically chaotic times. Women, minorities and the LGBT community need to make their voices heard, nationwide.

    I’ve noticed in our annual parade that the ritzy floats are usually purchased by commercial enterprises, like Micky’s, etc. (“Magic Mike 2?”). What is to stop people from gathering in matching attire, and marching in groups in this political protest? And nothing is going to stop them from carrying signs and banners. For example, Walt Disney employees, City of West Hollywood employees, PFLAG, LAGLC, APLA, LGBT police officers, the Pop Luck Club, etc.. We get to take our voice to a location that isn’t a “gayborhood.” People in Hollywood will see us rise up. Tourists visiting Hollywood will see us. There will probably be a greater deal of media coverage.

    And lastly, anyone, straight or LGBT is welcome to march in support of the LGBT community. Even if those people aren’t affiliated with an organization or employer that has an organized group. That is very powerful, and more inclusive.

  3. Parade! Being gay is not a privilege! Send the usual cast of basement dwellers, rock throwers, flag burners, slut walkers, immigrants who hate America and all their ilk to protest down in Orange County to reward the people there for voting for a Democrat for president for the first time.

  4. What is the real difference if the ‘parade’ starts on Crescent Heights and the Resist March starts at Hollywood and Highland. The parade is slow so the march will catch up and be the last ‘float’ of the parade. I am sure that people will be screaming for all the marchers.. and it will be the highlight of the parade. And really, do we want to wake up ln June 12th looking at both the directors of CSW who have run our pride into the ground two years in a row? While CSW is a non profit, Craig and Chris are holding on tight to their Pacific Design Center offices and using CSW to promote their own event planning business.

  5. I am completely shocked and appalled at the lack of interest and/or understanding of what it is we MUST protest this year . . . our so-called President and his cronies are actively working toward stripping us of the very rights we’ve gained through our own hard fights, the very rights that allow us to have a parade of celebration! If we lose our rights as equal citizens, we are left with nothing to celebrate. A protest march does not need to be a somber, stony-faced affair. Let’s make it a parade, filled with our unique colors and costumes and persons and tribes and groups, a parade that protests in our own unique style the heavy-handed efforts of our elected leaders to strip from us what we have fought so hard to have. I bow my head as I am truly saddened by the lackadaisical, blind, let’s-all-just-have-fun-nothing’s-wrong attitude so much of my community is displaying!

    1. Ben, relax, no matter how far we come, some will never be satisfied. Your community, as you call it is made up of lots of different people with different views. Do you think Trump will give a rat’s ass about a protest march? We need to be political and celebrate our Pride at the same time. As far as I know, that’s what the parade has always done The only real power we have is through our elected officials. How about you get more people to get out and vote, because those numbers are abysmal.

  6. I’m not interested in a protest and what is there to protest? Some people are unhapoy with the president who hasn’t done anything yet? Fear has taken over. The city council on the other hand we should protest- how dare they give away our celebration so they can glorify themselves with speeches and where is the ‘community input’.

  7. If the organizers of Gay pride can’t handle a protest and a festival maybe they should let someone else run the show. If it’s a question of the cost of the Festival and being upset because people think they were trying to make too much money from last years fest, maybe they should ask for volunteers for the festival and food vendors to donate food and drink to show off their wares and /or donate to the cause. Having a protest for something is fine but lets not forget that the festival is to celebrate the freedoms gay people fought for over the years and regardless if you approve of the kinds of people who participate in the festival, it’s the fact that they have the right to participate that is the point. Larry Block makes a lot of good points in his Oped and he has the freedom to address these issues because people fought and were arrested to protects these rights, but losing sight of the fact that the festival makes a positive statement every year because of what it is, should be separate from a protest which may or may not be considered a negative thing.

  8. Jerome, for (5) above, you must recognize that this protest was already being organized nationwide. I don’t think CSW had much of a choice, other than to have the protest end at the parade, at Crescent Heights. That sounds a bit chaotic to me, and I’m not sure both would be successful. Perhaps.

    I think we need this shake-up. I have gone to the parade almost every year I’ve lived here, since 1997. I don’t quite understand how it is a celebration of our “pride” to have a float from Wells Fargo. Or Paris Hilton as our “grand marshal.” Or a float promoting a broadway show. Etc, etc..

    I feel different about floats representing community organizations, such as LAGLC, APLA, etc.. But I’d guess that at least half of the floats are devoted to commercial enterprises, such as banks, bars, etc..

    Can we not have something different? After electing this new, awful administration, it seems like the right year to do so. Also, after the mess that was last year’s Pride, this seems like a good time to have something different. And with the festival, scaling it back isn’t a bad idea. I think this is a good time to put the brakes on, and re-evaluate what “Pride” means, in 2017. Let’s do a protest this year, with a smaller festival, and seriously consider what we want Pride to be, going forward.

  9. Parade! – aren’t most parades filled with signs and protests but we never stop celebrating who we are as a community. Thanks Larry Block if u were on the council we know there would be a parade!!

  10. Parade, but integrate the march somehow, or at least acknowledge it in the parade. Aside from the Trans using which bathroom at schools issue, which was ridiculous for him to even get involved in, I am not sure what the protest is about. No, I am not a Trump supporter

  11. This piece conflates complicated issues, most of which are cultural.

    Pride of decades ago is vastly different than Pride today. Many sentiments expressed don’t relate to the present social environment. The choice of a march or a parade are straw dogs.

    Do we really understand our new-found Pride?

    Neither the City Council, nor any other body, has grappled with what Pride means to the city in 2017.

    Nor has the LGBT community entirely absorbed all the social changes implicit in the legal rights so recently bestowed. We have not come to terms with the freedoms and responsibility PreP offers. A more profound issue is how our non-straight relations/family culture might evolve.

    With a deeper understanding, our celebrations might be very different. They could be entirely re-imagined to engage those who wouldn’t consider it part of their world and perhaps discover the boundaries not so distinct.

  12. Parade- replace csw board and the city counci – this was
    a stab in the back for community outreach. thank you Lauren Meister .

  13. I have attended every parade since the very first one on Hollywood Blvd. Lately it seems to have lost it’s heart and soul with a lack of nice floats and an obvious disorganization that allows huge spaces to occur within the parade. We’re gay for god’s sake, why can’t we organize a great parade like that one in Pasadena, well, without all the flowers? Give prizes for the best float, etc., to encourage more participation. Instead, all we get is a bunch of fire trucks, banks, home improvement stores, churches and mothers with signs that say how much she loves her gay son. Come on guys and gals, we can do better. Much better.

    That being said, let’s have a PARADE. A bigger, better, improved parade. Let’s CELEBRATE. We’ve come a long way, we don’t need to ruin our annual PRIDE gathering with a 3-1/2 mile protest walk which will accomplish nothing but negative results, bad press, and sore feet.

    My friends and I are not coming to a protest walk. We’ll sadly stay home and wish for the good old parade days, no matter how lousy they were.

  14. I’m not gay, but I live in Oklahoma and know that racists/bigots/whatever are still very much part of our world. I think you ought to have a parade, for all the reasons given above. I think a parade is a show of strength. A protest can be manipulated by detractors. Any GOP legislators have detailed comments about the gay parade? Well, we probably know why they’ve paid so much attention…….

  15. OMG its a run on article. We need to continue with a PARADE and have Protest or #Resist floats within it. We need to let them know that we are proud of our history and willing to celebrate our community even thou the current admin has a different view. WE need to keep the PARADE profitable so that CSW/ City of weho doesn’t come to the conclusion that its not a viable and feasibly sound venture. WE should PROTEST, we should #Resist, but we should always celebrate our history, remember those how stood their ground and fought/fight for our rights. Are we going to do a Protest march for 4 years? that will get old real fast. PARADE is needed,

  16. @Peter / Sir what are you protesting about since January 20th? There are more Trump supporters in this country, or state than Transgender persons and last year you thought the trans community was minimized but you advocate minimizing over 40% oft the population who are not in your camp. Why don’t you organize your own march and leave OUR parade alone.

  17. Here are the 5 big problems with the Protest March versus our annual fun Gay Pride Parade.

    1. Over the years of me filming and interviewing the large amount of people at the annual Pride parade before the parade even begins it was apparent that many people come just for the parade and cannot afford the festival either day or cannot go because of their schedule. The parade is their one thing they do every year and then they spend their money in Weho on food, bars, and shopping, clothes, before, during and after the parade

    2. For Seniors and the handicap they go to the parade and not the festival also and now the one event the parade is being taken away and done away with this year. To ignore and close out and dump the seniors and handicapped people who the majority cannot and will not be able to go up to Highland and Hollywood Blvd. and march for miles back to Weho in the hot sun. The fun annual gay pride parade was the one event they could go to celebrate and support with their presence.

    3. When you add the word “Protest” it will attract some violent and crazy people onto Hollywood Blvd at Highland. When we had the “anti” Trump rally at the Matthew Shepard square there was an assault and arrest. We will have no control over this “Protest” march and if it goes south and becomes crazy and violent then the media and the news will paint this event protest march as something bad forever.

    4. Our annual Gay Pride parade has always been a celebration of the LGBTQ community and straight alliances. It showcased everyone. A protest march will be exactly that a “protest” which is not a fun celebratory parade.

    5. This idea for a possible “Protest” march was never offered beforehand in meetings or to our residents and community for our input to ask whether this is a good idea and something we wanted and thus, it was just decided for all of us in the LGBTQ community so it was never a majority or consensus on this. It was just a done deal which is odd?

  18. You are a dreamer in a not so creative City. What is the difference between a Parade & a March? Serious query.
    The floats? The Dykes on Bykes? Gloria Allred?
    My concern is the welcome mat has been put out for AT LEAST half a million people (we have three guest flying in from Flortida for that weekend) march from Hollywood/Highland to The Intersection Larry likes to refer to as Historic Boystown. Besides the bars the only place to go will be “The (40% less space) festival. There will be no ‘big name’ acts.
    Take about preventable egg on the face!
    Why has no one on several posts offered an explanation why June 11th cannot be treated as October 31st is each year? Santa Monica Boulevard is CLOSED until early morning hours on 11/1. Is it the money? CSW needs to go the way of MECLA. It served its purpose, time the leave the party. “”1976- Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), the nation’s first gay and lesbian Political Action Committee.””
    There will be plenty of people watching the March as they would the Pride Parade. West Hollywood has a rep of sideline viewing. 18% voter turnout.
    Put out the welcome mat. Open the City to Pride. Close SMB, call in the food trucks, set up stages on San Vicente Blvd (West Hollywood Way). And Robertson. And at BGStarbucks.
    Allow people to dance in the streets. Allow people to converse. Beat your drum. Unify.
    Please, what do you mean by have a parade to Crescent then it become a Parade?

  19. Well Larry, according to Peter Cruz, your voice, and others like you, aren’t a part of “our” community.

  20. Larry, while I respect you and your opinion, I think it is important to be cognizant of your privilege. If you can’t find a reason to march after everything that has happened since January 20th, then you need to check your privilege. It would be naive to think that the issues of today will just magically disappear in three months. So yes, we do need to protest! Also, if a parade and protest happened on the same day, do you really think that the protesters will participate in the parade and vice versa? I don’t think so. That idea will only cause further divisions in the community and will probably result in fewer parade spectators than last year. If people want to watch a parade, set up some chairs along Santa Monica Blvd. and watch as thousands of LGBTQ community members and allies show you the power of our community’s voice. I think that image will be more powerful than having corporate floats go down Santa Monica Blvd. on June 11th.

  21. How about we all march in a huge display of unity in a celebration of who we all are proud to be and a huge protest of the policies and attitudes of that man who is currently sitting in the White House, and call it a day . . . a big, wild, wonderful, colorful, loud and raucous statement of who we are proud to be? 8.9K are currently signed up as marching on #Resist March’s Facebook page. Can we hit 10K? 15K? 20K?

  22. Scott Schmidt = Lauren Meister campaign manager = CSW consultant = Delay in Decision Making = Loss of Pride 2017planning. Lauren’s campaign manager was also receiving money as CSW consultant.

    8/22/2016 article WehoVille: CSW budgeted $12,000, apparently for the services of Scott Schmidt, the election compaign manager for and former City Council deputy to Mayor Lauren Meister. As of the date of the financial report, Schmidt had been paid $5,000. City law bars former council deputies from lobbying the City Council,

    So in August 2016 two months after last years Pride, and when 2017 Pride decisions are being made Scott Schmidt became a paid consultant and Mayor Meister did not entertain alternative solutions to this years Pride programming. Scott later resigned.

  23. Larry, I was with you all the way until your proposal at the end of your op-ed.

    Here’s a better idea, why don’t you take on a two year term and just have a parade in June.

  24. Craig Bowers is not the Vice Chair of CSW. He just happens to be another Board member (cough) who weilds a tremendous amount of power. Sometimes more so than the titular president

  25. When the PRIDE event expanded to a money grabbing festival that chased Bars/Clubs back into their own money grabbing interests, it ceased to be a sociological and equality protest.
    It should NOT be a business. There should NOT be any thrusts toward “Millenials” while ignoring any/all “other” Gay/Lesbian/Other people. The event has become a tourist attracting tool and those that benefit are the private bars/clubs/restaurants/coffee shops for the most part. The City needs to rethink the value and purpose of this event and notify the CSW to do the same.

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