Straight pride is old news. I wrote about it a few months ago, peeling back the obvious anti-Semitism and right-wing leanings of “Super Happy Fun America,” which is named like a fascist organization in a Saunders novel. The parade itself, which slimed through the streets of Boston on Aug. 31, garnered national attention and more than a thousand counter-protestors. Police arrived dressed in riot gear and arrested 34 protestors, assaulting and pepper-spraying countless others. One officer in particular, Capt. Jack Danilecki, used pepper spray on at least six different occasions and ignited several skirmishes within the crowd. In the past few months, dozens of Jewish protestors have been arrested at Never Again Action and Jews Against ICE rallies. Amidst this structural action, one has to wonder: Why are protestors disproportionately targeted by police?
I mean, the people participating in demonstrations like straight pride and white power rallies are hardly “civil.” At the Charlottesville rally in 2017, white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. murdered Heather Heyer when he drove his car into a group of protestors. This year, an ICE prison guard injured several when he drove into a crowd outside Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island. White supremacists espouse violent ideology online and in their parades. Why haven’t I woken up, made myself a cup of coffee and opened the news to see “24 Nazis Arrested at Fascist Demonstration”?
Maybe it’s because of the revealing racist messages ICE agents send to each other. Maybe it’s because of a “few bad apples” like Danilecki or Darren Wilson or Timothy Loehmann who use their power to brutalize disenfranchised minorities. The thing about the bad apples idiom, though, is that it doesn’t end there. The full phrase is, “A few bad apples spoils the bunch.” Perhaps this is why Danilecki has not faced consequences for his use of excessive force on protestors, why Darren Wilson received several months of paid leave after he killed Michael Brown. Perhaps this is why when police officers do not use violence against innocent people, they are expelled from the force. With all this in mind, the images of police officers surrounding “straight pride” floats take on a sinister pallor. After all, why should Super Happy Fun America dirty their hands confronting protestors when the police do it for them?
Protesting an event that baldly denies one’s humanity is one thing, but when the attendees of that event are surrounded by a force that seems to only protect and serve them, showing up takes guts. What message does this image send to the people of America, particularly those who have been the victims of police brutality throughout history? The first Pride at Stonewall occurred in response to police violence against LGBTQ people (overwhelmingly of color) and was pioneered by black and Jewish women. Seeing a bad facsimile of Pride leering through a phalanx of police is incredible in its absurdity.
I understand this issue has nuance. Large groups of people in any capacity have the potential for danger, and no one wants to see Boston’s streets torn apart by violence. But the treatment of Jewish protestors is worth noting. After all, Never Again Action refers to the Holocaust, in which innocent people were rounded up into camps. Jewish people fought then, and they fight now. The question remains: In a standoff between maintaining order and protecting human rights, where do we plant our feet?