June 7, 2017 at 4:48 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Record crowds expected for Capital Pride, Equality March
Capital Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

This year could see record crowds as the Equality March for Unity and Pride dovetails with Capital Pride. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Organizers of D.C.’s annual Capital Pride parade and festival scheduled for June 10 and 11 and more than a dozen related events such as dance parties, art exhibits and D.C. Latino Pride events that began June 3 were expected to draw as many as 200,000 people or more from the Mid-Atlantic region.

And with the national Equality March for Unity and Pride scheduled to kick off near the White House on Sunday, June 11, many local activists say the total number of people participating in all of these events could swell to several hundred thousand or more.

As of early this week, organizers of the Equality March said they were uncertain about how many people would turn out for that event and continued to make appeals to supporters for financial contributions to pay for the logistical arrangements needed for a rally on the Mall, where the march will end.

Equality March organizers announced on Wednesday a plan to hold a rally at the conclusion of the march on the National Mall. During the rally, speakers will address the march’s various platform issues, from racial justice and liberation for transgender individuals to youth empowerment and reproductive justice. Speakers and introducers at the rally include: Sara Ramirez, actor, singer and activist; Javier Cifuentes, HRC Youth Ambassador; Asia Kate Dillon, actor; Sarah McBride, Human Rights Campaign national press secretary; Mandy Carter, co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition; Dr. Imani Woody, founding director and CEO, Mary’s House for Older Adults; Aurora Lloyd, True Colors Fund Youth Fellow; Doug Kimmel, founder of SAGE; Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project; Charlie Carver, actor; Jason Collins, NBA player, activist; NBA Global Ambassador; Nicole Murray Ramirez, National Co-Chair, International Court System, U.S.A., Canada and Mexico. More speakers and introducers were expected to be announced later in the week.

Equality March co-chairs announced on Tuesday that the march would be holding a Queer Resistance Bootcamp on the day of the march to train march participants from other cities as well as local activists in “skills for community organizing and resistance needed to keep their activism going long after the march.”

“With this Bootcamp, attendees will receive evidence-based information from seasoned, successful activists to organize their communities to win full equality,” said Khadijah Tribble, a D.C.-based activist involved in organizing the Equality March.

In a statement released on Tuesday, organizers said the Queer Resistance Bootcamp would be held in two sessions, from 12-1 p.m. and from 3-5 p.m. at 755 8th St., N.W. in D.C.

Another potential unknown this year is the size and amount of support for several events planned by the recently formed group No Justice No Pride, which has criticized Capital Pride organizers for not changing their events from a celebration to a protest to reflect the changing political scene in 2017.

The group, which has called on Capital Pride to drop many of its corporate sponsors and to ban uniformed D.C. police from participating in the parade and festival, has announced plans for its own march on Friday night, June 9, and a 3 p.m. rally on Saturday, June, 10, at McPherson Square in downtown D.C.

Postings on the group’s Facebook page show that a “breakout” group was expected to leave the rally at 3:30 p.m. and march toward the Capital Pride Parade route, which will travel from Dupont Circle through various streets to its destination at 14th and R Streets, N.W.

One source familiar with No Justice No Pride said the intention is not to disrupt the Capital Pride Parade but to show support for No Justice No Pride along the parade route.

One night earlier, on June 9, No Justice No Pride plans to lead another march that will pass through “the most homonormative and wealthy neighborhoods in D.C.,” according to one of the group’s Facebook postings. “This is a family friendly march,” the posting says.

As of earlier this week the posting did not disclose the route of the planned march on Friday, June 9.

Capital Pride President Bernie Delia, meanwhile, said he and his fellow organizers of the Capital Pride events are expecting a larger turnout than last year.

“I think we’re in great shape,” Delia told the Washington Blade. “We have a strong team. Things have been well planned and well executed and I think it’s going to come off beautifully,” he said.

He said he doesn’t think people will stay away due to concerns about protesters led by No Justice No Pride or others who have expressed objections to what they said was “business as usual” by Capital Pride in the face of fears of assaults on LGBT rights from the Trump administration.

“I think people want to come,” Delia said. “They want to participate. They want to be together. We saw that last year. On the day of the festival we had an increase in the number of people. And I suspect that we will have a larger number this year than we did last year.”

He was referring to the shocking news on the night before last year’s Capital Pride festival that a gunman had shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 more at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando. The killer, who was shot to death by police on the scene, made it known in phone calls that he had targeted the nightclub in a planned terrorist attack.

Some last year asked whether Capital Pride should cancel its festival on grounds that such a large gathering of LGBT people so soon after the Pulse shooting rampage could present a danger to participants. But Delia announced that the festival would take place as planned to give the LGBT community a place to rally and collectively mourn the loss of fellow LGBT people in Orlando.

Although D.C. police stepped up their presence at the festival, no incidents or problems occurred and, as Delia said, a greater number of people turned out.

This year, with the change over from the strong LGBT support shown in the past eight years of the Obama administration to the uncertainty of the Trump administration, Capital Pride organizers have said a strong turnout and a continued display of LGBT unity and pride would deliver a strong message that the community continues to demand its full equal rights.

Delia has said those sentiments are being carried out, among other ways, by the selection of “Unapologetically Proud” as the theme of this year’s Capital Pride events.

Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos said well over 250 contingents were expected to participate in Saturday’s parade, including a wide variety of LGBT rights groups, both local and national.

Among the groups marching in the parade for the first time, Bos said, is the local LGBT group Check It, whose members had been involved in an LGBT youth gang with that same name and who transformed themselves into a business enterprise to produce and sell clothing.

In what’s being billed as a Capital Pride first, a Pride Block Party is set to take place at 15th Street between Church Street and P Street, N.W., along the parade route. Entertainment, food and a beer garden will be among the features of the block party, according to an announcement in the Pride Guide, a free publication that lists all Pride events.

Similar to the past several years, a number of U.S. government agencies will have booths at the June 11 festival, which will be on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between 3rd and 7th St., N.W. Among them are the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Smithsonian Institution. In past years, as was expected this year, representatives of those agencies displayed literature seeking to recruit people attending the festival to consider working for the agencies, a development that many activists said was unthinkable in the earlier years of the LGBT rights movement.

Delia and Bos said they have not seen a drop off in the number of federal agencies participating in the parade or festival this year because of the new administration in the White House.

In addition to the exhibitors’ booths, the festival this year will be the site of the annual Capital Pride concert on the festival’s main stage near the U.S. Capitol. Among the headliners scheduled to perform are Miley Cyrus, Tinashe, Vassy and The Pointer Sisters.

A full list of all the Capital Pride related events can be viewed at capitalpride.org.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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