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BQIC Statement on the 5 Year Anniversary of the #BlackPride4 Arrests during the Stonewall Parade and Festival on June 17th, 2017

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

Statement on the murder of Ma’Khia Bryant

Last Tuesday, April 20th, barely an hour after the announcement of the Derek Chauvin guilty charges, Columbus Police murdered Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16 year-old girl, who called police for help. We condemn this act and we call it what it is. This is yet another instance of white supremacist murder by a white supremacist police force. Ma’Khia Bryant should still be alive today.  

The Chauvin verdict rang hollow in Columbus as we saw, again, that it is not one bad cop. It is not one police department or even a handful of police departments. This entire system is built upon white supremacy and empowers and encourages more Black death than is comprehensible. Columbus Police continue to murder us, with impunity, for any number of reasons. They name themselves the judge, jury, and executioner at the expense of our safety and our freedom. No amount of reform will change this. Their sole purpose is to harm, enslave, and kill us. 

With transparency, it has taken us days to release this statement because this has been an incredibly difficult loss. Constantly watching each other die is not healthy. It is traumatic and terrifying. We have seen two children murdered by police in as many weeks: Adam Toledo in Chicago and Ma’Khia Bryant in our own backyard. Immediately after they were murdered at the hands of police, both children were criminalized and vilified by the public uplifting cop narratives. It is unconscionable that so many in our community were eager to justify the trigger-eager murder of a child. We do not trust the police to deliver fair perspectives of their actions, especially one that ends in death. We do not do the work of cops for them. We do not uplift cop narratives. We are baffled at the response and we will not tolerate it on our platforms nor in our discourse.

Adam Toledo and Ma’Khia Bryant, at the end of the day, were 13 and 16 years old, respectively, and deserved to live. The melanin in their skin should not discredit them from humanity; they were worthy of love and protection from the vitriol and hatred of this country. Black and brown children are constantly being denied their childhood, their innocence, their fears and their anger. They are perceived as older, bigger, and more violent, even and especially when that is wholly untrue. There is an alternative where both of them would be alive today, no matter what was in their hands.

We know that this is not possible with the continued existence of a racist, sexist, transphobic, police force. In response, we have created demands centered on Ma’Khia’s death as we continue to fight towards justice for so many other families within our city. 

Our demands are as follows: 

  • We demand an immediate freeze of all financial support to the Columbus Police Department. 
  • We demand a freeze on hiring any new police officers. 
  • We demand the firing, without pay and pension, of all officers that were involved in the murder of Ma’Khia including those screaming Blue Lives Matter directly after killing her. 
  • The immediate release of all evidence to the family of Ma’Khia Bryant.
  • The coverage of all funeral expenses by the city of Columbus from the CPD budget.
  • We call for the immediate defunding and divesting from Columbus Police Department by 50%
  • We call for an immediate reinvestment into our local communities and communities of care by 50%.
  • We call for the resignation of Mayor Andrew Ginther for demonizing Ma’Khia and telling the public her death was justified before an investigation even began. 
  • We demand an investigation into the foster home and an immediate removal of any and all children in the current care of the foster parents at the time of Ma’Khia’s death. 
  • We demand that CCS do not renew their contract with CPD for SROs in schools indefinitely and redirect funding to counselors. CPD cannot be trusted with the lives of our children.

BQIC calls for the abolition of police and of the police state. We can begin taking concrete steps to get there. A few of those steps are listed above. We call for a culture of transformative justice and accountability, rather than punitive measures. We dream of a future where our children are given the care they need. We dream of a future where our children are held in love. We dream of a world where our children are alive and can thrive in community.

BQIC’s statement on the insurrection attempt at the Capitol on 01/06/2021

First, let us be very clear about what happened last Wednesday. On January 6, 2021, over three thousand Trump supporters attempted an insurrection on our nation’s Capitol building. They were able to gain access into the Capitol building in Washington DC. At the time, Congress was in session finalizing the certification of electoral votes to declare Joe Biden as the 45th President. 

We believe this was a coup attempt that was both planned and orchestrated. A coup is an illegal seizure of power from the government. Oftentimes, and by many definitions, it is with aid of the state or military. We believe that Washington DC police officers taking selfies with insurrectionists, helping right-wingers carefully down the stairs to go home, and removing barriers and waving people to come inside is absolutely aid and assistance. The mere intentional unpreparedness of protecting elected officials in a government building is blatant assistance and aid. These events made it abundantly clear that institutions of white power will always support each other.

We understand why people are hesitant to call this a coup attempt. This coup attempt isn’t like any other we’ve seen globally as it is white supremacists fighting for power from other white supremacists. This coup attempt isn’t like others in Guatemala, Haiti or Venezuela where actual oppressed people are fighting a government that continues to violate human rights and exploit its own citizens. On the contrary, the situation that unfolded at the Capitol involved Nazis craving more power over marginalized communities that they already agree should be oppressed. 

We believe that this coup attempt was orchestrated. We saw several posts from Donald Trump asking for everyone to come to DC on January 6th and that, if he were not elected, there would be hell to pay. We also saw his speech that clearly incited the coup attempt at the Capitol. This is by no means the first time Donald Trump has incited violence during speeches; on the contrary, this is a consistent pattern we have seen since the commencement of his 2016 presidential campaign. As recently as May 2020, Trump incited violence by proclaiming on social media, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” This quote was taken directly out of the very aggressive and authoritarian playbook of Walter Headley, the former police chief of Miami, Florida. Plenty of the insurrectionists planned to travel to the nation’s capital — for example, bigots in our very own state organized for seven buses to transport 300 people from northern Ohio to Washington DC. People brought guns and zip ties to hold people hostage and had full intentions of murdering innocent civilians. 

There are several reasons why this coup attempt occurred. The 2016 election of Donald Trump alone allowed for the further coalescing of a community of white supremacists and white nationalists, along with the continuous allowance of Donald Trump’s racist, misogynistic, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in person and on social media platforms. His deliberately unchecked bigotry allowed for misinformation, or “fake news,” about the 2020 election results to spread easily. Republican elected officials used the saga of misinformation after the 2020 election as their catalyst to object to the certification of electoral votes. 

Please stop saying that this isn’t the America you know. Black people have been imploring you to take a closer look at what has been taking place for centuries. America is cruel, violent, and deadly. January 6th happened because of ongoing legacies imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism. America values power over others. America values individualism over collectivism. America — especially white America — will continue to move in this dangerous manner until a massive shift in power happens. We are abolitionists for this reason; we wish to dismantle and overthrow a society that is borne from enslavement and genocide. Our “democracy” has been stained with blood since its inception, this disgraceful insurrection attempt on the Capitol was just a continuation of this tide of hatred.

We will never forget the awful police violence that countless Black people across the country have experienced for centuries and most recently during the Summer 2020 uprisings. There are clear distinctions in the way Black Lives Matter protesters were treated. BLM protesters were met with state sanctioned violence in all of its forms, including rubber and wooden bullets, tear gas, bear spray and other chemical agents along with LRAD machines to cause neurological damage. BLM protesters were also met with tasers and flash bombs, both of which were causes of death for individuals during the coup attempt on January 6th.

Any fear and panic elected officials felt last week is a mere fraction of the current reality for many people across this country. Furthermore, it is these same elected officials who represent the empire that deals death to oppressed people worldwide. Don’t forget that we have been left to die in droves during a pandemic while Capitol Hill debated on whether to issue measly $600 checks. 

For those who have long endured the peril of this so-called “democracy,” we implore you to be your comrade’s keeper, especially during these very troubling and trying times. It’s our shared responsibility to build something anew. Black people are the greatest creators of the world; surely we can create a better world involving a delicate balance of freedom, love, safety, and care. Now is the time for us to get organized so that we can be a formidable threat to those who want us dead.

With love and solidarity, 

Black Queer & Intersectional Collective (BQIC)

1/13/2021