San Francisco Pride is welcoming military recruiters to this massive June 30th LGBTQ celebration, the media exposed Tuesday. The revelation comes just weeks after the Pride board officially dumped Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning as the Grand Marshal.
The National Guard will join the celebration's vast corporate and bank sponsors—including AT&T and Bank of America—by setting up recruiting booths. This marks the first time the military will formally recruit at Pride since 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was overturned in 2011.
When the revelations of military recruiters were made public, LGBTQ and anti-militarist groups were already mobilizing against the SF Pride board's controversial dethroning of Bradley Manning as the parade's Grand Marshal.
The news that military recruiters will be in full-force is a further blow to many LGBTQ organizers and Manning supporters calling for Pride to take a stand against U.S.-led wars.
"It's shocking, but not surprising," said Clare Bayard, San Francisco queer organizer on issues of racism, militarism, and war with Catalyst Project. "Since the community response was so loud and clear when Pride threw Bradley Manning under the bus, they've found another way to reassert their role in trying to defang a queer liberation movement with a long history of challenging militarism."
"I don't want the military at Pride," said Stephen Funk, queer former service member who refused deployment to Iraq on ethical grounds and is an active supporter of Bradley Manning and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "This shows who is really controlling Pride. Now the gay rights movement you see on the media is not anti-war, they are all about assimilation."
In early June, the SF Pride board announced their final decision to exclude Manning from this honor after he was initially named Grand Marshal April 26th. This followed public trashing of Manning from the board, including charges that he is a traitor.
This provoked uproar from many LGBTQ organizers who hail the former Army private as a 'queer hero' for leaking and exposing U.S. war crimes and human rights abuses. Manning's supporters organized protests, open letters, and a massive community meeting attended by over one hundred calling for the board to reinstate this honor.
While the Pride board ultimately decided to strip manning's title, LGBTQ and veterans groups announced Tuesday that they will honor the whistle blower as 'Community' Grand Marshal in their own Pride contingent, expected to draw hundreds. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, will be numbered among them.
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Manning supporters have garnered widespread support for this action, including pledges from the SF dyke and trans marches—during the same weekend as Pride—that they will honor Manning.
"There's been an outpouring of support for Bradley Manning in the LGBTQ community, not only in San Francisco but nationally and internationally, since Pride's leadership made its divisive decision to overturn his election as Grand Marshal," declared former SF Pride Grand Marshal Joey Cain.
"It makes me feel very upset that the military would be welcome but Bradley Manning isn't," stated Michael Thurman— military veteran and organizer with Bradley Manning Support Network and Courage to Resist—as he made picket signs for upcoming actions to hold Pride accountable. "That shows how militarized the decision-making process is."
Many in LGBTQ communities charge that Pride only represents the interests of the most elite U.S. gays.
"Look at this week with the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act and Indian Child Welfare Act, and the Texas legislature's attempt to slash abortion rights," asserted Bayard. "Pride has long positioned itself as an arm of funneling white gays with money away from uniting with our multiracial, cross-class, many-gendered queer family with interests way past marriage, towards joining up with conservative white electoral agendas."
Organizers vow that they will not let the Pride's embrace of military recruiters stop them from sending a loud anti-war and anti-militarist message this weekend. Bayard insists:
The Pride committee would love nothing more than for us to spend the weekend celebrating the defeat of DOMA and Prop 8. We don't want to trade 'tolerance' and the opportunity to enlist in occupation forces for our deeply held values of justice and building healthy communities that meet everyone's needs and celebrate everyone's gift.
Queers need other routes besides joining the military to be accepted and loved. Trashing Bradley Manning and inviting in the military is a clear message about where they want to position us, but we refuse to be used as a wedge.