“This is the best Pride ever.”
That sentiment was heard many times amidst the crowd of over one thousand that gathered at the gates of the Henry Maier Festival Park on Sunday, June 7, for the “March with PRIDE for #BLACKLIVESMATTER” protest. Following ten days of protests in Milwaukee to honor the death of George Floyd, Sunday would have been the final day of the annual Pride Fest celebration, postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Undaunted and inspired, the protest co-organizers Montell Ross, Angel Vega, and Kat Klawes merged the celebration of LGBTQ+ liberation with the still-needed liberation of Black and Brown bodies in our country, including Black queer, Black trans, Black non-binary, and Black gender non-conforming individuals. Ross told the crowd that while it could obviously celebrate LGBTQ pride during the march, the focus of the peaceful protest was on elevating the message that “All Black Lives Matter.”
Opening speakers, all of whom were Black, included Chris Walton, the openly gay Chair of the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County; Elle Halo, a trans rights activist; and Lex Allen, a local non-binary musician. Their words were a mixture of pride and passion, anger and disgust, and the crowd echoed each sentiment with applause, chanting, and raised fists.
The march, organized within only a few days, proceeded to Water Street, south on 1st Street to Lapham Boulevard, then north on 2nd Street for a return to Festival Park. The first stop featured other speakers and afforded marchers a welcome pitstop, a great expanse of lawn dotted with rainbow-colored attire and signs denouncing police brutality and systemic racism.
The majority of marchers wore face masks, many of them donated by One More Ministry, and dozens of well-coordinated volunteers supplied snacks, water, suntan lotion, first aid, and plenty of garbage bags.
The second stop, between Lapham and National on 2nd Street, saw every marcher knelt in silence for 8 minutes 46 seconds, the time the officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck until he died. Every other moment of the protest was filled with the mantra of police murder victims and demands for justice.