More than 1,500 at Dyke March in Little Village, Jewish Pride flags banned (UPDATED June 25)
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond 2017-06-24
The 2017 Dyke March Chicago demonstrated two opposing personalities as it moved, for the first time, to the Little Village neighborhood.
More than 1,500 LGBTQ individuals and allies gathered at Little Village Academy at Lawndale and 26th.
With a few representatives from Dykes on Bikes and a contingent of youth leading the way, the marchers shut down half of 26th Street after organizers (historically called the Dyke March Collective) negotiated with 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to have the west-bound lanes shut downbecause the city would not issue a permit to organizers.
The march proceeded peacefully with support demonstrated by passing cars and bystanders waving from local businesses and homes along the route through the heart of Little Village.
It seemed as if the entire gender, racial and sexual spectrum was represented, walking hand-in-hand and demonstrating a powerful unity as they chanted "We are Dyke March" in English and Spanish.
Declarations of support for minority communities and against gentrification and abusive government and social institutions echoed along 26th Street while Munoz leant a hand directing traffic at each intersection.
A small group of Christian extremists were waiting for the marchers at the Piotrowski Park rally area. Dyke March attendees barricaded them with a beautifully illustrated counterpoint to hatred. People of all races, genders and gender identities formed a wall two lines deep and held up sheets of tarpaulin, trans pride flags and bed linen in order to completely conceal the extremists from the revelers in the park.
The protestors were eventually asked to leave.
However, the Dyke March Collective also ejected three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).
According to one of those individualsA Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurel Grauershe and her friends were approached a number of times in the park because they were holding the flag.
"It was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer, Jewish identity which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag," she told Windy City Times.
She added that she lost count of the number of people who harassed her.
One Dyke March collective member, asked by Windy City Times for a response, said the women were told to leave because the flags "made people feel unsafe," that the march was "anti-Zionist" and "pro-Palestinian."
"They were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive," Grauer said. "Prior to this [march] I had never been harassed or asked to leave and I had always carried the flag with me."
Another of those individuals asked to leave was an Iranian Jew Eleanor Shoshany-Anderson.
"I was here as a proud Jew in all of my identities," Shoshany-Anderson asserted. "The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional. I don't know why my identity is excluded from that. I fell that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here."
A statement from posted June 25 on Dyke March Chicago social media accounts read in part:
"Sadly, our celebration of dyke, queer and trans solidarity was partly overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally. This decision was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Dyke March Collective members."
"People asked me if I was a Zionist and I said 'yes, I do care about the state of Israel but I also believe in a two-state solution and an independent Palestine,'" Grauer said. "It's hard to swallow the idea of inclusion when you are excluding people from that. People are saying 'You can be gay but not in this way.' We do not feel welcomed. We do not feel included."
In their statement, Dyke March Collective organizers singled out Grauer's organization A Wider Bridge for what they called "provocative actions at other LGBTQ events [and] for using Israel's supposed 'LGBTQ tolerance' to pinkwash the violent occupation of Palestine."
Social media posts in support of the Dyke March Collective also claimed that a rainbow flag with a Star of David is a form of pink washing (a belief that Israeli support of LGBTQ communities is designed to detract attention from civil and human rights abuses of Palestinian people).
Supporters added that American flags were similarly not welcome as they too are considered signs of oppression. However, flags from other nations were present.
In a June 25 press release concerning the incident, A Wider Bridge asserted that "The Dyke March has failed to live up to their goal of 'bridging together communities.' That the organizers would choose to dismiss long-time community members for choosing to express their Jewish identity or spirituality runs counter to the very values the Dyke March claims to uphold, and veers down a dangerous path toward anti-semitism."
The organization called on the Dyke March Collective "to issue a full public apology for dismissing LGBTQ Jews from the March, and affirm the Dyke March hold to their own values as a safe place for all LGBTQ people, including the Jewish Community."
One Dyke Marcher, Ruthie Steiner, who witnessed the removal of the Jewish participants, called the decision "horrific."
"This is not what this is community is supposed to be about," she told Windy City Times. "I'm German-born. Am I pink washing by being here and supporting my community? Is every nation which does not have a clean civil-rights record and also hosts a pride parade guilty of pink washing? With all the people that so hate the LGBTQ community, for it to tear itself apart in self-hatred makes no sense at all."
Other groups were welcomed, in particular 2017 Dyke March partner Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) whose members urged attendees to press City of Chicago leaders to truly be a sanctuary city and to stop cooperating with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the wholesale round-up and tearing apart of undocumented families.
The Piotrowski Park rally emcee was Chicago activist, business owner, Brave Space Alliance founder and Trans Liberation Collective member LaSaia Wade who walked on stage with a flotilla of rose-petal bearers.
"This is intersectionality," Wade said to thunderous cheers from the audience. "This is what Pride is supposed to look like."
Wade introduced acts which included Jarochicanos, The Breathing Light, Darling Shear, Sol Patches, Vogue to Get Free, Bonsai's Salsa Lesson, Mister Wallace, MZ MR, the Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP) and Juju Minxxx.
"Yesterday, June 24, Chicago Dyke March was held in the La Villita neighborhood to express support for undocumented, refugee, and immigrant communities under threat of deportation. Sadly, our celebration of dyke, queer, and trans solidarity was partially overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally. This decision was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Chicago Dyke March Collective members. We have since learned that at least one of these individuals is a regional director for A Wider Bridge, an organization with connections to the Israeli state and right-wing pro-Israel interest groups. A Wider Bridge has been protested for provocative actions at other LGBTQ events and has been condemned by numerous organizations (tarabnyc.org/cancelpinkwashing/&; for using Israel's supposed "LGBTQ tolerance" to pinkwash the violent occupation of Palestine.
"The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not anti-Semitic, we are anti-Zionist. The Chicago Dyke March Collective supports the liberation of Palestine and all oppressed people everywhere.
"From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go!!
"[Edited to add: We want to make clear that anti-Zionist Jewish volunteers and supporters are welcome at Dyke March and were involved in conversations with the individuals who were asked to leave. We are planning to make a longer statement in the future.]"
CHICAGO DYKE MARCH OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON 2017 MARCH AND SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINE
June 27, 2017
On June 24th, 2017, a small group of individuals were asked to leave Chicago Dyke March for expressing Zionist views that go directly against the march's anti-racist core values. In the days following, articles have appeared in a number of major news outlets that put forward false reports based on testimony that is purposefully misleading. We wish to clarify the circumstances under which organizers and community members alike asked the group to leave.
The group in question was heard disrupting chants, replacing the word "Palestine" with "everywhere," saying: "From everywhere to Mexico, border walls have got to go." One of the individuals, Laurel Grauer, is the Regional Director of A Wider Bridge, an organization with ties to the Israeli government that was protested for pinkwashing at the Creating Change Conference in Chicago in 2016. It was later revealed that Laurel was aware of Dyke March's anti-Zionist position from pro-Palestine memes and art that were posted on the Dyke March page, and was also aware of the fact that her flag could be interpreted as being at odds with that position. The night before, she contacted an organizer to ask if her flag would "be protested." The organizer told her the flag was welcome, but reminded her that the space is one that supports Palestinian rights.
Screenshot of text messages sent from Laurel Grauer to CDMC organizer the night before Dyke March Screenshot of text messages sent from Laurel Grauer to CDMC organizer the night before Dyke March
Upon arrival at the rally location in Piotrowski Park, Palestinian marchers approached those carrying the flags to learn more about their intentions, due to its similarity to the Israeli flag and the flag's long history of use in Pinkwashing efforts. During the conversation, the individuals asserted their Zionist stance and support for Israel. At this point, Jewish allies and Dyke March organizers stepped in to help explain why Zionism was unacceptable at the march. There was an earnest attempt at engagement with these marchers, and the decision to ask them to leave was not made abruptly nor arbitrarily. Throughout a two-hour conversation, the individuals were told that the march was explicitly anti-Zionist, and that if they were not okay with that, they should leave.
Zionism is an inherently white-supremacist ideology. It is based on the premise that Jewish people have a God-given entitlement to the lands of historic Palestine and the surrounding areas. This ideology has been used to justify dozens of laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel, segregated road systems in the West Bank, and forced removal of Palestinian families from their homes in order to make way for Jewish-only housing, among other violent and discriminatory practices. We recognize that Zionism is not synonymous with Judaism, but instead represents an ideology that uses legacies of Jewish struggle to justify violence.
Chicago Dyke March Collective is a grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience. Our priority is to ensure a safer space for those who are most marginalized. We welcome and include people of all identities, but not all ideologies. We believe in creating a space free from oppression, and that involves rejecting racist ideologies that support state violence. We welcome the support we have received from Jewish allies and marchers who are as invested in liberation as we are.
The threats that have been made to Chicago Dyke March and its organizers by Zionists worldwide does not even compare to the violence that Palestinians endure on a daily basis while living under Israeli military rule in the name of Zionism. Palestine is being occupied by Israeli military forces, and at the time of writing, Gaza is currently being bombed. This is what we as a collective are most concerned with. Palestinians deserve to live free from violence, and Dyke March will continue to fight for Palestinians alongside all other oppressed communities around the world.
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