Chicago's annual Pride Parade is a popular spectacle for queer Chicagoans and their straight allies. But even its most ardent supporters often wonder if Pride, meant to commemorate Stonewall, has retained its insurgent and activist roots.
This year, a new group named Bash Back! decided to reclaim some of what it feels is the original spirit of Pride: protest, critique and anti-assimilationist politics.
Members showed up with a display that attracted the attention of the throngs of spectators lining the sides of the parade.
Inside a cage on wheels stood Lily, dressed as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, complete with a dark suit and pink tie-and a paper mask of his face. A large poster attached to the cage charged the mayor with a litany of acts, including "enabling queer-bashing cops, pushing gentrification, terrorizing neighborhoods of color and militarization of public schools."
According to John of Bash Back!, the display symbolically held Daley responsible for "his support of a police department with a record of torture ands abuse of queers and others, especially people of color." The cage was not an "an endorsement of the prison industrial complex" we're doing to him what he's doing to people throughout the city."
Bash Back! also held banners that read "War is murder, revolution is fierce!" and "No Pride in corporate greed." It was an anomaly in the parade, sandwiched between Hydrate nightclub's float and giant banners for gay marriage. What about marriage? Tristan's response was that "It's a shame queer people are fighting to be just like everyone else."
According to John, the organization chose to focus energy on local issues that needed attention rather than divert it on gay marriage. Members distributed "barf bags" with words like "Corporate Pride makes me sick" and invitations to join the group in protesting the Republican National Convention. Would this have an effect on the thousands who lined up to cheer the spectacle of Pride? Marching, said John, was "a symbolic gesture to raise issues no one seems to care about and to try to salvage the radicalism that Pride was originally about."
Bash Back! can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Photos by Yasmin Nair.