Metro, Top Story, Politics, Boston

Paraders at ‘Straight Pride’ Met With Protest

The hotly debated Straight Pride Parade was held in Boston on Saturday, as a group of marchers walked to City Hall surrounded by hundreds of protesters. 

The organizers of the march, part of Super Happy Fun America, have said that the event is inclusive for all and is not anti-gay. The group advocates for straight people, which president  and parade organizer John Hugo has called the “oppressed majority.” The parade sparked controversy when it was approved by the City of Boston in June.

The parade began at Copley Square, where marchers walked along the Trump Unity Bridge, which carried Milo Yiannopoulos, the parade’s grand marshal and a gay former Breitbart journalist who has been banned from Facebook and Twitter for hate speech. Yiannopoulos, who is British, hung a Trump 2020 banner from the side of the float. 

Milo Yiannopoulos points at event organizer John Hugo. (Colleen Martin / Heights Editor)

“They don’t have any need for a parade,” said Kelly, a protester from Worcester who declined to provide her last name. Pride originally began out of the Stonewall Riots and eventually became a celebration for people in the LGBTQ community, Kelly said.

“Straight people don’t need that. They don’t need that at all,” the protester said. “This is completely and totally organized by white supemacists, and the only reason they’re doing this is to make a complete farce out of what LGBT communities worked so hard to gain. It’s a show.”

protest sign
A protester holds up a sign as Straight Pride marchers walk past. (Colleen Martin / Heights Editor)

As the Trump Unity Bridge, a float with a TRUMP 2020 cut-out on top, began to move down Boylston Street, a remix of Aretha Franklin’s “Think” was blasted out from it while paraders waved American flags.

“I believe in freedom, and I’m really excited to have more freedom and deregulation so that people can be free and not be forced into a state of government that a lot of confused people think is the right thing,” said Sarah, a parader who declined to give her last name. 

The parade was met by more protesters when it reached Boston Common and continued on to City Hall, where the stage was set for Yiannopoulos and the other speakers brought in by Super Happy Fun America. 

Stationed on Congress Street, a large group of protesters were held back from City Hall Plaza by police barricades. Boston Police Department (BPD) officers were brought in on city buses, bikes, and motorcycles, and were stationed around City Hall. 

“We had people who finally got in here, and the police told them the event was canceled even though it wasn’t, and that’s not right,” said Hugo. 

Paraders were not restricted from entering the event area at City Hall Plaza, BPD said.

trump flag
A Straight Pride marcher carries a Trump 2020 flag that says “No More Bullshit.” (Colleen Martin / Heights Editor)

The speakers started later than anticipated, Hugo said, because they wanted to give more people a chance to get in. Speakers included Felecia Nace, a science advisor; Barbara from Harlem; Theresa Stephens Richenberger, a spiritual advisor; and Adam Kokesh, a 2020 libertarian presidential candidate, among others. Nace spoke first, followed by Richenberger.

“I have a right to say it’s not ok to be gay,” said Richenberger during her speech, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “And it’s ok to be straight.”

Kokesh opened his speech by warning the crowd that one of his staff members had told him he would get kicked off the stage for what he had written.

“I would thank you all for being here, but I would rather thank the people who were smart enough to stay home today as opposed to participating in this ridiculous culture war,” Kokesh said. “This embarrassing American spectacle of Trumpian proportions.”

The people who “run the system” and the police are the real enemies, the 37-year-old continued, not the protesters. He was met with boos and calls from the audience to get him off the stage as Samson Racioppi, an organizer, told him to wrap it up. Hugo lunged for his microphone, pulling it out of his hand before Kokesh got it back and continued to talk.

“This is the Straight Pride rally, and you’re not going to let me finish?” Kokesh asked.

Some audience members yelled out, “free speech,” and Racioppi said he would give Kokesh one more minute—Kokesh objected, saying he had been told he would have 20 minutes on the stage and he was way under time. Shortly after, the microphone’s audio was cut and Kokesh left the stage.

“It’s free speech, but if people don’t like it, they don’t have to cheer for him. And they were booing him. He was kind of killing the buzz here,” Hugo said in an interview with The Heights after the speakers finished. “It was a real happy day, everyone was having a good time, and then he got on there and he was a real buzzkill. 

“And nobody wanted to hear the things he was saying. And he was kind of a jerk if you ask me. And he wouldn’t give up the mike. He kept pulling the mike away and then he kept talking.”

Yiannopoulos took the stage after Kokesh, reading from a paper that was on a platform held up by two people—one wearing green face paint and another dressed as a clown. The former Breitbart editor called for an “S” to be added to LGBTQ, to stand for straight. Many of the paraders said they were there because all sexualities should be celebrated.

“Just because one group had to fight so hard does that mean the other group can’t have a day to celebrate too? They can’t be proud?” said Seth Garcia, who attended the parade. “It’s supposed to be equal.”

A man holds up a sign advocating for free speech near City Hall. (Colleen Martin / Heights Editor)

Protesters disagreed, citing the struggle that the gay community has had to go through in order to be able to celebrate their sexuality.

“Having a Straight Pride [Parade], where they don’t have any of the issues that we have and don’t need to have a celebration and a safe space like we do isn’t something we want to condone and allow to happen in our community,” said Jess Mpotyl-Szary, who is Mx. Bisexual RI 2019, a title bestowed by Rhode Island Pride.

Mpotyl-Szary was disappointed by Boston Pride’s response to the Straight Pride Parade, which encouraged people to stay home and not participate in protesting. 

“Boston Pride is not interested in responding to their bait,” Boston Pride said in a statement regarding Straight Pride. “Our strength comes from directing our attention and energy to helping one another meet the challenges of intersecting oppressions. Boston Pride will continue to focus on supporting and empowering members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thirty-six people were arrested at the parade, and four police officers were injured, according to BPD. It is unknown if it was protesters or paraders that were arrested. Some protesters yelled at police standing outside of City Hall, asking them who they were protecting. Others criticized the response of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09, to the parade and its events.

“As I’ve said, a ‘Straight Pride’ Parade won’t overshadow the tremendous role Boston plays in the national movement for equality,” Walsh tweeted on Saturday evening. “We will continue to be a leader in the fight for civil rights. Let’s continue to turn our backs on hatred, using our voices to continue spreading the message of love.”

Tweeters responded, criticizing the mayor for allowing the parade to take place and for the police presence that was deployed on the streets.

Hugo estimates the parade will be two or three times bigger in the future, now that the organizers have a better idea of how to do it. He will come back next year, he said.

Featured Image by Colleen Martin / Heights Editor

September 1, 2019