June 6, 2018 at 9:04 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Massive crowds expected for Capital Pride festivities
Capital Pride parade, gay news, Washington Blade

It’s Pride weekend, meaning hundreds of thousands will descend on D.C. for myriad events. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 300,000 people from the D.C. metropolitan area and the Mid-Atlantic region are expected to participate in D.C.’s annual Capital Pride Parade on Saturday and the annual Capital Pride Festival and Concert on Sunday, according to Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes the Pride events.

Similar to recent years, the parade, festival, and concert serve as the finale to a month of LGBT Pride-related events in the nation’s capital, including the annual Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride and Latinx Pride.

As the city’s largest LGBT community event of the year, the festival was expected to include at least 300 booths representing LGBT organizations and LGBT-friendly groups, businesses, food and beverage vendors, and corporate sponsors, including many supportive churches and faith based groups.

Capital Pride officials expect between 300,000 and 350,000 people to show up at the festival throughout the day on Sunday. It takes place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between 3rd Street and 7th Street.

With D.C.’s primary election scheduled to take place June 19, less than two weeks after this weekend’s Pride festivities, several D.C. Council members up for re-election and a number of their challengers will be marching in the parade and setting up booths at the festival. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is also up for re-election, was also expected to participate in the parade.

The concert, which is held on the festival’s main stage on Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol, was to include entertainment from nationally recognized headline performers, including singer, songwriter and actress Keri Hilson and Kim Petras and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Asia O’Hara.

Also scheduled to perform is 22-year-old singer, songwriter and actor Troye Sivan. Following the concert, which is scheduled to last until 8 p.m., a dance party will take place in front of the main stage from 8:15-10 p.m., according to Capital Pride officials.

Capital Pride organizers were hopeful that the unusual spell of protracted rainfall that has hit the D.C. area in the past few weeks would subside before the start of the weekend Pride events. Weather forecasts as of midweek showed a 40 percent chance of rain for Saturday and a 30 percent chance of rain on Sunday.

Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos said all Pride events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, including the parade, festival and concert, would proceed “rain or shine.”

Bos said at least 200 contingents consisting of floats, vehicles, marchers, and entertainers were expected to participate in the parade, which was scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at 21st and P Streets, N.W. near Dupont Circle.

The parade’s 1.5-mile route will take participants from the starting point to Dupont Circle, where it will turn onto New Hampshire Avenue and continue to R Street before turning right on 17th Street and proceeding along the 17th Street restaurant and entertainment strip. From there it will turn left on P Street and continue to 14th Street where it will head north before ending at 14th and R Street, N.W.

For the second year in a row, a block party will take place next to the parade route on 15th Street just north of P Street, according to Capital Pride officials. There will be a parade reviewing stand with bleacher seating along New Hampshire Avenue and an announcement stand on 14th Street just north of Church Street.

Disruption by protesters?

One of the unanswered questions surrounding this year’s Capital Pride Parade just days before it was scheduled to take place was whether the dissident group No Justice No Pride planned to block the path of the parade as it did last year as part of a protest against various policies and practices by Capital Pride.

D.C. police last year chose to reroute the parade rather than arrest the protesters, who blocked the path of the parade by linking arms to create a human barrier from one side of the street to the other.

The group said its civil disobedience action was aimed at what it claims were Capital Pride’s refusal to agree to its demands to ban police participation in the parade, ban corporate sponsors involved in the defense industry, and restructure the Capital Pride Board of Directors to include greater participation of transgender people of color and Native Americans.

Earlier this year, Capital Pride released a statement saying it had made a number of changes in its operations, including adding more people of color to its board and restricting corporate sponsors to corporations that have records of support for their LGBT employees and LGBT rights.

No Justice No Pride released its own statement a short time later in April saying it carefully reviewed the Capital Pride statement and concluded that “no substantive changes have been made to address the concerns of those who feel they have been left behind and pushed out” of the Pride festivities.

But the statement, which reiterated the group’s earlier demands, did not say what, if any, action No Justice No Pride would take in response to what it believes was Capital Pride’s failure to carry out those demands.

Two of the leading organizers of No Justice No Pride, Emmelia Talarico and Brittany Walsh, didn’t respond to an email from the Washington Blade this week asking whether the group planned to stage a protest against this year’s parade similar to its action last year.

The statement noted that Capital Pride’s criteria for screening corporate sponsors would not exclude those to which No Justice No Pride has objected, such as banks that lend money to projects the group believes have built oil pipelines on lands deemed sacred by Native Americans or defense contracting companies that manufacture weapons of war. The group said it also strongly objected to the presence of uniformed police officers in the parade or other Pride events based on what it says has been police mistreatment of LGBT people of color, especially transgender women of color.

Bos, the Capital Pride executive director, said all of its corporate sponsors have records of strong support for LGBT employees and LGBT rights. He said nearly all of the large corporations with contingents in this year’s parade, including the defense contracting company Northrop Grumman, were organized by LGBT employee groups within those companies.

The Capital Pride statement describing the changes it has made to increase its inclusivity and diversity among its board and leaders made no mention of any change in policies related to police or law enforcement agency presence in the parade or festival. One of No Justice No Pride’s demands called for barring from participation “in its festivities recruiters from any local, state, and federal law enforcement department or agency.”

The most recent list on the Capital Pride website of parade contingents and festival booths does not include a D.C. police contingent in the parade or a D.C. police booth at the festival. In past years the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit has operated a booth at the festival, and police officers in past years have marched in the parade.

The Capital Pride list, however, shows that the Fairfax County Police Department will have a contingent in the parade.

The Capital Pride list of parade participants also shows that U.S. Department of Justice Pride and FBI Pride, two LGBT employee groups, would be marching in the parade. The list shows that the CIA would have a booth at the festival.

In past years, an LGBT employee group at the CIA staffed the intelligence agency’s festival booth. Among other things, the CIA staffers at the booth sought to recruit festival goers for possible jobs at the CIA, a development that many LGBT rights advocates considered an important breakthrough for LGBT equality.

Matthew Shepard’s parents chosen as grand marshals

Among the notable contingents in this year’s parade will be the vehicle carrying the parade’s grand marshals, Dennis and Judy Shepard, the parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death in a secluded field outside Laramie, Wyo., in 1998 in one of the nation’s most notorious anti-gay hate crimes.

A short time later, Dennis and Judy Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation in their son’s honor to advocate, among other things, for anti-hate crime laws and for ways to curtail hatred and violence against LGBT people.

A Capital Pride announcement says the Shepards would be leading a contingent organized by Marriott International, the lead sponsor of the parade, along with representatives of Casa Ruby, the D.C.-based LGBT community services center.

Others scheduled to join the parade were the Capital Pride Heroes, individuals nominated by the community and recognized for their work that has had “a positive, significant, and lasting impact on the LGBTQ+ community,” according to a Capital Pride announcement. They include Gregory A. Cendana; Jessie Garcia; Patrick Grady; Jorge Hernandez; and Samantha Master.

Those selected for Capital Pride’s Engendered Spirits Award, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the transgender community, were Karen Kendra Holmes and Linda Roberts.

Bianca Humady Rey was selected this year by Capital Pride for its Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. Pixie Windsor was chosen for the Capital Pride Larry Stansbury Award for Outstanding Service to the LGBTQ+ Community.

The full list of all parade and festival participants along with a detailed list of entertainers and events associated with Capital Pride’s weekend activities 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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