July 1, 2011

At NYC Pride, Israel contingent attacks LGBT Palestine supporters

Will the Center provide safe space for queers under attack? So far, it's just providing safe space for attackers.

NYC's Pride March saw a scary escalation of the effort to squelch queer political speech -- this time with violence. Pride marchers carrying Palestine-related signs were physically attacked by marchers from the Israel contingent. Facebook posts on "Queer support for Israel" (now apparently removed) indicated that the attack may have been aimed at Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

This attack comes directly from the Center's ban on queer Palestine-related groups: it was a violent act in support of the ban, by the anti-speech forces with which the Center has aligned itself.

The Center's claim that it's "not taking a side" by banning Palestine groups is ridiculous. The Center has an obligation to stand up for an open queer community, and stand up against violence. The Center has created controversy by entertaining anti-speech bigots, instead of affirming what it should have from the start: that the demand to ban certain LGBT ideas -- and people -- is outrageous. Now that controversy is making queers physically unsafe.

Here's the first-hand report of the attack, from Shelley Ettinger:
"As you may know, Workers World Party was assigned the same gathering block (39th Street btw Park and Madison) as what was listed as "The Israeli Delegation." We were separated by about a half-block and several contingents. Shortly before everyone was to step off, as we were lining up behind our lead banner, suddenly four or five young Israeli men (they were all wearing the same t-shirt with a star of David, which everyone in that contingent had on) rushed into the midst of our contingent, laughing, taunting, yelling, pushing, thrusting themselves and their signs in front of us and ours, very pugnacious and physical. They kept body-checking and pushing our folks who were holding Palestine-solidarity signs in an apparent attempt to physically block us from hoisting our signs or being able to march. (Our lead banner, by the way, read "Stonewall Means Fight Back--from Wisconsin to NYC to Palestine." Among our placards was one that said "LGBTQ Solidarity with Palestine" and one that said "Stop Pinkwashing Israeli Apartheid.") Along with trying to scare us and block us from marching, it seemed to me that they were also clearly trying to provoke a violent fight. And by the way, most of us were women and there were a lot of people of color, so this was also a sexist and racist attack by white men.

We did not let them get our signs away from us, in fact we raised our signs higher, and everybody came together and started chanting, "Viva viva Palestina." Holding up our signs, we told them to leave, to get out of there, to go back to their own contingent, but as they kept up with trying to push in against us, we made a line facing them and started walking forward to try to back them up onto the sidewalk, all the while yelling at them to get away. It did get quite heated for a few minutes as they were still screaming at us and pushing against us and refusing to leave, and swinging their own signs with metal poles at us, and it was at this point that they knocked over one of our folks, a 68-year-old woman, knocked her to the ground with a metal pole; in their bashing and thrashing out at us they also knocked the glasses off another woman. Right around then five or six people, from the Armenian contingent which was lined up behind ours and possibly also some parade marshals, showed up and started helping us get the Israelis to go away, basically pushing and pulling them and telling them they had to leave and then escorting them back to their own contingent. These folks who'd helped, all men, came back and talked to us, were very friendly and very sorry that it happened and appalled at what the Israelis had done, and several of them were friendly specifically about our signs and thanked us for being there.

By the way, our contingent included a lot of Jews. In fact, I think as it fell out it was mostly us Jewish people, including the two they hit hardest, the one they knocked down and the one whose glasses they knocked off, who were the ones trying to get them to leave, and it was all women."

1 comment:

  1. Like the Center, Heritage of Pride (organizers of the Manhattan pride march) are now confronted with anti-speech, pro-Israel forces using their space as a platform to silence queers. The folks who got attacked in the WWP contingent, along with Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, wrote to HOP today asking them what actions they'll take to deal with the violence that happened, and make Pride a safe space for us again.


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