Headlines

JOBURG PRIDE MARRED BY SCUFFLES

Sun, 7 October 2012

Two revellers in the parade
A well-attended and festive Joburg Pride was marred by scuffles between organisers and activists who mounted an ambush protest against LGBT hate crimes and the "depoliticised" nature of the event.

Thousands turned out on a sweltering Saturday for Africa's largest Pride Parade, one which organisers say was among the biggest-ever to take place in Johannesburg.

The massive parade, which left Zoo Lake Sports Club shortly after 11 a.m., came to a halt on Jan Smuts Avenue in Rosebank when protestors blocked the road at a major intersection.

The group of activists, from the 1 in 9 campaign, ran out from behind the Goodman Gallery building and set up an impromptu blockade. A number of life-size dummies and activists were stretched out on the road, representing LGBT victims of hate crime, backed by banners that read "Dying For Justice" and "No Cause for Celebration".

Pride participants were confused by the protest and some appeared to be under the impression that it was being staged by an anti-gay group. Tempers flared as marshals insisted that the activists move out of the way.

When marshals attempted to divert the parade to the other side of the road, around the protest, the activists moved to again block the parade from proceeding. This angered both participants and marshals who attempted to pull down the banners stretched across the avenue.

Scuffles erupted amid shouts of the parade being an "elitist" and "depoliticised" event. Both Joburg Pride organisers and 1 in 9 have accused the other of reacting with violence and abusive behaviour.

A participant said that it was "embarrassing and tragic that something like this happened. We're all on the same side. We're all fighting for the same thing."

Carrie Shelver from 1 in 9 described the organisation as a “feminist collective of predominantly queer women”. She told Mambaonline that the action was intended to observe "one minute of silence to recognise the death and murders of particularly black LGBT people".

"We were absolutely amazed and horrified by the response that we got. Not at any point did the Pride committee ask what we were doing. We were clearly identified as not being a homophobic protest," said Shelver.

She explained that the group had held a similar disruption of the recent ANC Women's League Women's Day march to highlight the lack of response to attacks against LGBT women.

"For many years Pride was a critical political forum. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t be joyful and celebratory but surely we can also recognise the violence and that we are not yet free.

The 1 in 9 campaign brought the parade to a halt

"We wanted to stop for one minute to reflect on this and reflect what has happened to this space [Pride] and that it has just become a space for a few. Not in an accusatory fashion. Everyone of us has a role to play," she said.

Joburg Pride Chair Tanya Harford told Mambaonline that the incident could have been avoided if 1 in 9 had approached Pride organisers.

"If they had bothered to contact the Board we would have been very open to working with them. We would have had no problem to have had a minute’s silence and we could have made a very powerful statement that would have benefited them," she said.

Shelver admitted that the group had not approached Pride organisers beforehand. When Mambaonline asked if the ambush nature of the protest could not have come across as confrontational, confusing and aggressive, Shelver replied that "we see ourselves as part of the LGBT community and we believed that we were able to do it".

Harford insisted that the protest was "absolutely inappropriate and illegal. They had none of the necessary permissions. They also embarrassed the entire LGBT community. The campaign wasn’t explained nor was it clear about what their purpose is.

"They shot themselves in the foot. We are all horrified and outraged by any discriminatory crimes against LGBT people, but I just feel that what they did was, in my opinion, short-sighted and blinkered.

"No one knew what they were saying or who they were. And how do you stop a parade with 20,000 people and 38 floats and expect a few people in the front to explain what’s going on," said Harford.

Shelver commented that, "We need to look back on what happened yesterday. We are open to criticism and we would assess if we could have done it better. We are open to that.

The parade made its way back to Zoo Lake

"We need to go back to our members and see what we want to do about the Pride committee. Maybe this will lead to some kind of dialogue. A dialogue about what does it mean to have a Pride committee and what we can expect from them," she said.

The parade eventually continued without further incidents. The colourful participants danced on floats to booming music and marched through the streets holding up posters demanding equality for LGBT people as workers, residents and shoppers came out to cheer them on.

"The vibe is amazing" said one woman, holding up a sign that proclaimed "Lesbian and proud".

After snaking its way through Rosebank for an hour and a half, the parade returned to Zoo Lake where the event continued into the late afternoon with performances by Swedish pop star Ola, Crazy White Boy and Flash Republic.

A highlight of the day was the unexpected arrival of the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Andries Nel, at the event.

He asked surprised organisers to be allowed to speak on stage. Addressing the revellers, he admitted that much work remained to be done but he reiterated his department's commitment to LGBT equality. "We are proud to be proud with you today," he told the roaring crowd.

The Pride community village featured various shopping and informational stalls, including a large presence by the Department of Justice, as well as HIV screening and counselling services.

by Staff Writer

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paula key 6/19/2013 3:45:40 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
My name is paula key and I am a lesbian living in Canada. My site not only blogs lesbian stories (set globally) but it covers global issues like "corrective rape" in South Africa and other places. I want my site to be a home to lesbians who live in fear of their lives in certain countries and for lesbians who want to celebrate who they are.
My site stories4hotbloodedlesbians.com
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History 10/11/2012 2:29:53 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
They also did it in the march to Constitutional Hill - but it was pre-arranged and all went and sat down for a minute - the leaders of the parade new what was coming and showed all to sit - and we all sat down immediately. If they had that whole parade sit down for a minute (as pre-arranged) it would have been one major show of force. All cars and trucks engines killed, all just sitting deathly quiet would have been something much more powerful than this fracas.
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History 10/11/2012 1:51:23 AM Down Up Reply REPLY
Here are a few facts people do not know and should be taken into account: the driving force behind the '1 in 9' campaign is a veteran activist Carrie Shelver - who is white (it is her holding the bullhorn at some stage). She is also a past chairperson of Pride herself - in the late 90s and forced Pride through Hillbrow, and Jhb CBD when the majority of attendees did not want to go that route, mainly due to safety concerns. Shelver was also part of the Pride organising committees of the late nineties and early 2000s who left Pride with huge financial losses. She is well-known for stirring up racial tensions. Since the new Pride Board registered a non-profit company in 2007, Pride has turned around, is financially sound, attended by many more non-whites as ever before and in the words of Emily Craven, one of Shelver's supporters, "stable" for 6 years - something unknown before 2007.
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History 10/11/2012 1:51:23 AM Down Up Reply REPLY
Shelver was also behind the protests to move the whole of Pride to Soweto. From that Soweto Pride was born, which is not very well attended (less than 1000 people). She has a gripe with the success of the new Pride board and this is the result there of. They did not approach Pride for a minute of silence before the time, instead they say they asked for it by staging a surprise attack (because that is what it was), on a legal and well-organised parade, without the people in the parade having a clue as to what they were asking or standing for . I was there and I saw it happen (not the scuffle involving Tanya though). They pulled a publicity stunt - which worked - but they did not earn the sympathy of parade participants of all races. Quite the opposite.
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Bruce 10/9/2012 4:10:51 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
Hi there.
I would like to put in my 2 cents worth here.
First I would like to thank the board for putting on a gr8 day.
They did a fantastic job in what is a thankless task.
Tanya and the board are the only ones to do this properly.
BUT and this is where the problems start.
They do not work with any one and abide with their own section 21 co and their mandate as per the joburg pride web site.

The Joburg Gay Pride Festival
Joburg Pride is an annual celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) identity and sexual diversity. It consists of a weeklong festival of cultural, social, activist and entertainment events held in Johannesburg culminating in a street parade followed by a mardi-gras offering entertainment and a platform for community expression.
Joburg Gay Pride Festival is a not-for profit publicly transparent Section 21 company registered in April 2007 (Registration number: 2007/013596/08).
It was constituted to organise the annual Joburg Pride event in a credible and manner on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community.
The company aims to professionally and responsibly organise a regional annual Pride festival in Gauteng that brings together members of the LGBTI community to create public visibility, celebrate and build confidence in our identity and diversity, and offer an umbrella under which the community can fully develop.
Our broad aims
To produce a well-attended event that:
o Is financially responsible
o Is supported by the authorities
o Is supported by the majority of the LGBTI community
o Is recognised as a cultural event
o Enjoys significant participation by representative groups
o Has credibility in terms of fundraising and sponsorship

They are not transparent and do everything they way they want and to hell with everyone.. They are a secret society.

No AGM to help get the community involved.
No financials and no audited figures.
Do not advertise what theame people would like for each year they announce what they want with out asking input. (This could have stopped that happened on Saturday)
As for what happens on the day this is up to then and no one can say a thing.
I know this sounds harsh but if we work together thinks like this will not happen.

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Seb 10/9/2012 3:56:00 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
Perhaps they did not follow the proper steps - but goodness - it says a lot of the white people who acted with disgust and racism towards them. I really cannot excuse such behavior. It says a lot of the committee, the participants and how it is organised. It does seem to be all a party and no advocacy.. similar to how Cape Town Pride is run. A clever planned elitist event where black people are only used to be infront of the camera's and when the pride march is over, they are bussed back to the locations. A sad state of affairs.. racism is rife in the gay/queer community and we need to address this head on! Mr GAY SA you too need to watch it with your elitist pageant.. be more inclusive!
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Fed up with Carrie 10/8/2012 2:42:11 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
This was simply a publicity stunt. Carrie Shelver has been doing this for years. It's not about the message, it's about the amount of publicity she gets by causing trouble. Go home, Carrie, and let 1 in 9 make proper arrangements next time and deliver a decent, powerful message about those we have lost - without all your drama spoiling it.
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Steve 10/8/2012 2:42:11 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
After watching the YouTube clip/press release 1in9 put together, I would agree with you. Had they gone to Pride and arranged like all of the other organisations and sponsors did, there would not have been all this hype....watching the YouTube clip actually made me sick and ashamed to be a gay man in South Africa....I applaud the idea behind 1in9, but definitely not the delivery! Shame on you!!!
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Gilles 10/8/2012 7:13:43 AM Down Up Reply REPLY
i also found it weird that there is 2 pride, one in Soweto and one in Zoo lake. what image is the LGBT reflecting to the community. Why they did not do one pride in Soweto???It is so hypocrite and i did not go to any of them.....
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10/7/2012 9:47:10 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
1-9 is wrong
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Stuart 10/7/2012 8:47:08 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
Just so we're clear, under the Regulation of Gatherings Act of 1993, the 1in9 protest was not illegal
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JustMe 10/7/2012 6:50:47 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
Well done to 1 in 9 for making a statement clearly Pride Committee failed dismally at doing. And well done for doing it "illegally". If you (1 in 9) and gone by Pride's book, Pride committee would have watered it down so drastically (as they have Pride in general) that you would have wasted your time and your message would have gone unnoticed. I'm PROUD 1 in 9 stood up for those who's voices have been lost to the darkness.
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Zee 10/7/2012 6:50:47 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
Yes yes yes! Why is pride split between Rosebank and Soweto anyway???? We must hang the organizers out to dry!!!
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Really 10/7/2012 6:45:56 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
That is not irony that is the reality of township life, it is still dangerous to march in Soweto which is why the whites don't come, there is no beer for sale, no giant piss up afterwards. The irony is that people who claim to care about the slaughter of black lesbian women will turn up to the giant party in Rosebank but wont show a face at the political rally in Soweto. Which do you think is closer to the vision of the pioneers of our struggle that Joburg Pride are so quick to quote when it suits them?
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JustMe 10/7/2012 6:45:56 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
I just watched video footage on YouTube about the incident. I am disgusted by Tanya Harford and Jenni Green's behavior - and the call to have people drive over the 1 in 9 participants - for raining on their parade. But what really was an eye opener, ironically, was seeing marchers stepping through what were depicted as dead bodies - the victims of hate crimes. You can see a clear "what to do?" question and a "carry on walking" response. Ironic. But when a group (1 in 9) try and step in and seek to change that - or at least highlight the need for justice - they are met by violent confrontation. It's not ironic, it's disgusting the way they were confronted. And just read on twitter: One of Pride's suppliers and friends was brutally murdered last night. Ironic? Who shot whom in the foot now not wanting to embrace a call for justice but rather party, party, party?
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Rolando 10/7/2012 6:13:03 PM Down Up Reply REPLY
The irony of all this is that the activists that claim to speak for the many only manage to attract a crowd of a few hundred to the Soweto Pride event that they organised last week. Yet, those who they claim speak for "the few" attract 20,000 people.
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