Johannesburg Pride Rocked by Protests

By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly

Johannesburg Pride, Africa’s largest gay event, was marked by hostility between event organizers and feminist activists.

Over 20,000 people attended last Saturday’s Johannesburg Pride, the biggest-ever turnout for the longest-running and largest Pride event in Africa. However, not everyone was in attendance to party: the 1 in 9 Campaign, described by AllAfrica as a “feminist collective of predominantly queer women,” set up human blockades to protest the commercialization and lack of political awareness at Joburg Pride. Mamba Online reports:

The group of activists, from the 1 in 9 campaign, ran out from behind the Goodman Gallery building and set up an impromptu blockade. A number of life-size dummies and activists were stretched out on the road, representing LGBT victims of hate crime, backed by banners that read “Dying For Justice” and “No Cause for Celebration”.

Pride participants were confused by the protest and some appeared to be under the impression that it was being staged by an anti-gay group. Tempers flared as marshals insisted that the activists move out of the way.

When marshals attempted to divert the parade to the other side of the road, around the protest, the activists moved to again block the parade from proceeding. This angered both participants and marshals who attempted to pull down the banners stretched across the avenue.

Scuffles erupted amid shouts of the parade being an “elitist” and “depoliticised” event. Both Joburg Pride organisers and 1 in 9 have accused the other of reacting with violence and abusive behaviour.

The Guardian reports on the 1 in 9 Campaign’s objectives and their treatment by the marchers:

The 1 in 9 campaigners hoped to secure a minute of silence to commemorate those members of the South African queer community who have been raped or slain over the past few years because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. They passed out leaflets listing 25 names of such individuals, noting that there were “countless more, unnamed and unknown”. But the activists did not find a receptive audience in the Pride participants leading the parade. Video footage shows an aggressive altercation between the activists and those parading, with the activists being pushed, sworn at, threatened with being driven over, and being told to “go back to your lokshins (townships)”. Police eventually moved the activists away.

The 1 in 9 Campaign has released videos of the parade, including footage of the assaults and a critique and analysis of Joburg Pride. Pride organizers have also released a statement (perhaps paradoxically) voicing their support of the Campaign’s objectives:

The Joburg Pride Board regrets that this entire incident was escalated into a racial furore on the day and subsequently in social media, attempting to divide the LGBTI community across racial lines. We reiterate that racial slurs did not originate from any Pride Board member but between parade participants and protestors.

Joburg Pride remains committed to promoting a non-sexist, non-violent, non-racial and non-discriminatory community… Joburg Pride is open to communication from all sectors of the LGBTI community. Joburg Pride is a free event to attend. We give all NGO’s free space to promote their cause within the community village. We invite participation from all groups or individuals in the planning stages of Pride, and we emphasise that Pride is a platform to highlight community issues by other LGBTI organisations.

As Joburg Pride we fully support the One in Nine campaign and all other LGBTI NGO’s.