cw: police violence, state violence, transphobia
Since Stonewall Columbus Pride parade and festival is happening this weekend in Columbus, Ohio we thought it would be important to remind our community of the harm they have caused and the ways they still have not been held accountable.
On June 17th, 2017 during the Stonewall Columbus parade queer and trans people of color, particularly Black LGBTQIA+ folks, were brutalized and harassed by Columbus Police. As apart of this four Black protestors, most of who were Black queer and trans, were arrested by CPD and were later known as the #BlackPride4. As you can see in the AJ+ video we’ve included, the protestors were taunted, harassed, and spit on by white LGBTQIA+ people in the parade. Even as they were being arrested, white folks cheered and shouted anti-Black remarks. We see that as a result of Stonewall cultivating a heavily policed and corporatized pride, not often vetting the corporations involved and centering whiteness.
The Black Pride 4 was comprised of Wriply Bennet, Kendall Denton, Ashley Braxton, and DeAndre Antonio Miles-Hercules. They were calling for seven minutes of silence for the previous day’s acquittal in the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer that killed Philando Castile in Minnesota. The protest was to raise awareness about the exclusion of queer and trans people of color in LGBTQIA+ spaces, violence against Black trans people, and the many issues with heavily policed and corporate pride celebrations.
After the arrests, they had to endure even more state violence throughout their trial that followed in 2018. While doing court support for three of the four members of the Black Pride 4, the public was able to see body and cruiser camera footage from the actual arrests on June 17th. This was incredibly tramuatizing to see, and obviously even more tramuatizing for the Black Pride 4 to relive.
CPD were incredibly violent, anti-Black, and transphobic toward the Black Pride 4 – asking the protestors about their genitals and mocking them relentlessly. They intentionally put Wriply in the wrong jail. They threw Kendall in the car upside down and laughed at him as he tried to sit in his seat correctly in the cruiser, knowing he was having difficultly seeing where he was due to the pepper spray on his glasses. They made several horrible comments about Ashley’s body on video and in court.
After all of this, Stonewall then testified against the Black Pride 4 on the last day of the court trial to help ensure they would be found guilty.
Everyone who went up against Stonewall during this time experienced harassment, surveillance, and violence. Many BQIC members received countless death threats. Community members were outed in articles that were published, doxxed, and lost their jobs. It wasn’t until white-led LGBTQIA+ organizations started receiving death threats years later that folks believed the harm we experienced.
We were demonized, gaslit, and excluded from LGBTQIA+ spaces in central Ohio. We were left out from discussions about the Black Pride 4 and the folks who advocated for them. Stonewall even went as far as to change the location of one of these community conversations THREE TIMES in one day to ensure we would be excluded from the space (we made it anyway).
Even today, we have been left out of important accountability processes involving Stonewall’s harm. Just last year, we were approached by several organizations in an email thread asking if we’d like to try the accountability process again. In that, we asked to include the Black Pride 4, how the process will be safe and requested objective moderators. In response to this, Stonewall allowed for the previous moderators to begin a new email thread and accountability process without us, which then other organizations took it upon themselves to accept Stonewall’s apology that was never theirs to begin with. Oh and the apology they did offer in 2019, did not outline what steps they would make to change or address the harm they perpetrated, and this is unacceptable to us. What’s worse, the apology from Stonewall only came after several organizations severed ties with them due to additional harm they did years after the Black Pride 4.
Stonewall has tried to avoid accountability and erase the history of their harmful actions against the Black Pride 4, BQIC, and other queer and trans people of color in many ways over the past five years. They have hired Black executive directors to tokenize our people and negate the culture of white supremacy they maintain. Even just this year, they have rebranded as “The People’s Pride” to try to appear more inclusive or grassroots oriented – despite continuing to invite Columbus Police to their spaces and ignoring calls for accountability.
For these reasons, we feel as though Stonewall Columbus is still an anti-Black organization that is not safe for Black LGBTQIA+ people. If for some reason you have to attend Stonewall Columbus’ events this weekend, we strongly encourage you to proceed with caution and ask them why they have still not been held accountable.
Let’s be clear: Police do not keep us safe, and they do not belong at pride. Corporate prides like Stonewall go directly against the work of our queer ancestors who fought against state violence. CPD can save their rainbow crusiers and Stonewall can save their celebration of rainbow capitalism. Let us remember, the entirety of the Black Pride 4 case was led under CPD Chief Kim Jacobs, a white LGBTQIA person. So do we really believe a CPD LGBTQIA+ liaison is really going to be impactful?
Since Stonewall Columbus makes it appear as though they are in community with us by regularly uplifting our social media posts, let’s see if they uplift this one also.
We strongly encourage you to do research by looking at national and local news resources that have covered the Black Pride 4 over the years. You can search the hashtag #BlackPride4 on all social media platforms and find the truth for yourselves.
The community has long called for reparations for the Black Pride 4 as Stonewall has never compensated these folks, so we ask you all to continue supporting the Black Pride 4 here and uplift the harm they’ve been through:
Kendall: venmo: @Wriply-Bennet-1 // Paypal: wriplyB
Wriply: venmo: @Wriply-Bennet-1 // Paypal: wriplyB
Ashley: direct funds to central OH freedom fund at https://www.centralohiofreedomfund.org/plans-pricing
DeAndre: venmo: @Hercules06 // cashapp: $Hercules06