June 14, 2020 at 6:12 pm EDT | by Michael Key
In lieu of Pride, protesters demand Bowser defund MPD
Activists in the DC Pride2020 March chant, ‘Black queer lives they matter here; Black trans lives they matter here!’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

This year’s Pride parade was markedly different from previous Pride events. Gone were the corporate floats with revelers tossing out branded swag. Gone were the rainbow flag-waiving police officers to greet the cheering throng. This Pride was a protest.

The activist organization No Justice No Pride organized a “DefundMPD” march and protest alongside other community organizations to call for the abolition of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

No Justice No Pride came into prominence three years ago by causing major delays in the Pride Parade through a direct action to protest the presence of police and certain corporations in the parade among other concerns.

Activists march in the DC Pride2020 March+Caravan on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The march on Saturday was held on the day that the Capital Pride Parade would have normally taken place. The planned annual celebratory parade was cancelled by the Capital Pride Alliance due to concerns about maintaining social distancing given the coronavirus pandemic.

Nonetheless, hundreds of activists gathered in Jessup Blair Park on Saturday for a rally. Speakers gave testimonials about their experiences with the police and with the prison system in D.C.

Following the rally, activists marched through the streets of the affluent neighborhood of Colonial Village. Several residents, hearing the commotion, went onto their lawns to cheer and encourage the protesters.

The marchers chanted, “Black Trans Lives Matter!” and “Queer lives, they matter here!”

The march ended at the steps of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s home. Her house was guarded by a line of Metropolitan Police Department officers wearing protective masks.

In the street below Bowser’s home, David Thurston, No Justice No Pride art director, spoke to the crowd about the “Black Lives Matter” lettering painted on 16th Street on the orders of the mayor.

“It is performance. What we have is a performative mayor who would like to pose as an opponent of Trump and an opponent of the far right that aids and abets those people left, right and center when she has the chance to take a stand. So, we call on Mayor Bowser — if she wants Black lives to matter — to immediately defund MPD and convene assemblies across the city.”

Thurston turned his gaze to the line of the police guarding Bowser’s home. He continued, “every single one of these people is a social worker that is not working. Every single one of these people is a child care worker that is not working!”

No Justice No Pride spokesperson Pontiannà Ivan told the Blade, “we have been going through a lot in the past couple of years being accepted in society: discrimination by police — even by higher powers — it is time for the people to take a stand and to get their justice and get what they want. We have people that are in control manipulating what the people really want.”

“It is the chance for people to fight for what they want.” She continued, “we’ve been through enough.”

Participating organizations in the event included Black Lives Matter DC, They/Them Collective, SURJ-DC, DC Dyke March, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, HIPS, Stop Police Terror Project, BYP 100, Plantita Power, Decrim NOW DC and Trans Latinx DMV.

Click HERE to see photos from the protest.

Michael Key has worked as a photojournalist for the Washington Blade since 2009 and is currently serving as the photo editor. He has worked on Capitol Hill, in the White House, on the campaign trail and in cities along the East Coast taking iconic photos documenting the extension of marriage benefits to same-sex couples, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and other events of interest to the LGBT community. Follow Michael

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.