Several thousand people turned out Sunday for an anti-racism solidarity march from Hollywood to West Hollywood, a city that was originally set to host the LA Pride Parade on this day before it was canceled due to the coronavirus.
The march was organized by All Black Lives Matter, and as of 12:30 p.m. the crowd had swelled on Hollywood Boulevard, which was painted with large all-capital letters spelling out ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER. The popular tourist thoroughfare was closed to vehicle traffic from Highland Avenue to La Brea Avenue.
Organizers of the 2020 LA Pride Parade, who canceled their event due to the coronavirus pandemic, said earlier this month they would hold a march in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against police brutality and oppression. But Christopher Street West, which organizes LA Pride, failed to reach out to BLM officials or Black LGBTQ community organizers before making that announcement.
“They just kind of stepped forward too soon without checking with and getting the full endorsement and support from Black LGBTQ leaders … and organizations,” ABLM organizer Brandon Anthony told KTLA5.
CSW admitted as much in a social media post Monday, saying the group would withdraw from formal sponsorship of the anti-racism event, but stand in solidarity.
“We apologize to the Black Lives Matter organizers,” LA Pride officials wrote in their post. “Conversations did continue and grew to later include leaders from Black Lives Matter LA, and subsequently, an Advisory Board of Black LGBTQ+ leaders has formed to lead the upcoming All Black Lives Matter solidarity march.”
According to a website for the march, ablm.la, the LA Pride organizers stepped back “out of recognition and respect to the years of work and action of Black LGBTQ+ leadership and community organizers,” but would “stand unapologetically in solidarity with efforts to dismantle racial (in)justice, systemic oppression, institutional barriers, policy brutality and discrimination of all kinds.”
According to All Black Lives Matter, the march aims to “amplify Black Queer voices” and support Black Lives Matter demands to “prosecute killer cops” and “defund the police and reinvest in the community.”
ABLM officials said they would not engage “official police involvement” in organizing the march and would reach out to black-owned businesses rather than the corporate sponsors sometimes sought by Christopher Street West, highlighting issues that may have been points of contention.
There has been push-back against police participation in pride marches, given that they originated in commemoration of a 1969 anti-police riot outside the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan.
Last year, Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva marched in the LA Pride event, but New York-based LGBTQ+ activists staged an alternate event in that city last year to avoid marching with police, as well as any support from corporate sponsors.
San Diego Pride organizers recently announced that police would not be participating in their event this year, given that their presence could be threatening to other marchers.
As public health officials continue to worry about large gatherings creating a spike in coronavirus cases, All Black Lives Matter included a tag line on the event flyer reading, “COVID-19 guidelines encouraged and enforced.”
On the website, organizers cited the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on Black and LGBTQ+ communities and urged protesters to “take protective measures, including wearing face coverings and avoiding large crowds if you are at high risk or displaying symptoms of COVID-19” and provided a link to public health recommendations.
Anthony, who has also produced LA Pride’s hip-hop stage for several years, told KTLA5 that the march’s 11 a.m. start was in honor of the trans community. The ABLM website explained that the time was chosen in honor of Tony McDade, a black trans man shot by a Tallahassee, Florida, police officer at that hour on May 27. Police say McDade was armed with a gun and suspected of fatally stabbing 21-year-old Malik Jackson.
Marchers planned to travel west on Hollywood Boulevard to North La Brea Avenue, then south to Sunset Boulevard, west to North Crescent Heights Boulevard and finally, southwest on Santa Monica Boulevard to end at San Vicente Boulevard.
In Monday’s post, LA Pride organizers also committed to diversifying their board.
“We recognize systemic racism, implicit bias and privilege permeates this country, and this includes the history of our organization. We hope to see progress and change from within,” officials wrote. “Following the All Black Lives Matter march, the CSW Board will continue to work with the new Advisory Board to examine internal policy and further diversity its Board to include more voices and perspectives from the Black LGBTQ+ community.”