I'll both qualify myself and make clear that I'm not entirely objective about Seattle Pride right up front - I'm alumni. I've co-chaired a Pride here, run Safety (security) for one, led a wee rebellion against the organizers of another, and participated in the resistance to taking Pride away from its community (moving it downtown, away from our community and our businesses that need our support).
For several years after Pride moved downtown, I got my Pride fix in Portland - because it felt more like a real Pride event nestled in its community rather than an artificial spectacle thrust into a sterile business district. I began attending Pride in Seattle again perhaps two years ago.
This year was the first Pride I can recall where I felt concerned for my physical safety, and where I questioned whether (aside from the crowd on the sidelines) I was attending an LGBT event.
Before the event started, a bunch of pseudo-Phelpsian semi-Christian anti-gay religious protesters were marching up and down the route, roughly two dozen strong - complete with megaphone carefully telling us we were all going to hell if we did not repent and spontaneously turn straight, celibate or both. This did not go over terribly well.
They were unescorted by any sort of security or police presence, agents provocateur dowsing a crowd of roughly half a million with emotional gasoline and then playing with matches.
The crowd was unamused. However, when drag queen Mamma Tits and others stepped up and began to remonstrate with the undesirable, members of the crowd began to step off the sidewalks and form barricades against the interlopers and in support of the drag queens (this would've been in the third pass of the pseudo-phelpsians).
I've occasionally hinted to straight friends that "never screw with a drag queen" was a really good life rule, on the order of "don't leap from tall cliffs into spike lined pits." Neither one works out well.
DefCon 1 had, for a Pride Parade, been achieved and count down begun. (Suggested reading:
Seattle Drag Queen Stands Up To Anti-Gay Protesters Trying To Disrupt Start Of Pride Parade)
500,000 angry folks - no matter how butch or nelly, and regardless of sexual preference or gender - are more than any police department, and certainly more than mall rent-a-cops - can handle. If that many angry folk suddenly decide to express their fury, proper police protocol *should be* "RUN! RUN FOR THE HILLS" as they won't accomplish anything other than getting themselves stomped flat.
Fortunately, someone suddenly had an epiphany - and like magic, a few bike cops appeared and escorted the hateful sorts from the route.
Things never should have been allowed to get to DefCon1 or nor should it have required an epiphany to keep downtown from burning.
Simple rule. Don't drive a crowd of 500,000 to fury or allow others to do so. Corollary rule: don't let other folks do that, either.
Riots don't start with an entire crowd suddenly being struck peeved...they start with 20-30 folks who've "just had enough" and a single punch thrown, drag queen shoved or just the wrong word used. If they are surrounded by folks sufficiently emotionally wrought up (with joy or sadness or whatever, it really doesn't much matter which) the riot tends to spread like wildfire.
I am confused by what to me seems like the negligent inaction of the organizers. That they didn't have their own internal security sweep these goons from the route, surround them or apparently request SPD to do either speaks to either vast ineptness, a complete ignorance of crowd dynamics or a degree of ideological blindness that should preclude them from ever again leading an event more complex than a kindergarten lunch line.
And then we have the Seattle Police Department, that large department going through the throes of de-policing, that merry process where front line officers stop showing initiative or enthusiasm. Instead, under de-policing officers simply serve out their shifts - rigidly following "the book", refraining from rushing to calls (after all, if they arrive while festivities are still in progress they might have to use *force* and be subjected to onerous procedures at high risk to their careers), do not initiate citizen contact unless a felony is clearly in progress directly in front of them (see last for reasoning), and stop volunteering for overtime (say, parade duty). Remote alleys become remarkably well-patrolled between calls, as do under-utilized parks and other areas not known for a measurable crime rate.
De-policing doesn't happen simply because a few officers think it would be grand mischief to commit a white mutiny. It requires an otherwise well-organized organization of individuals of average or above average intelligence with a strong sense of self-respect and professionalism, and that such group of persons rightly or wrongly perceive themselves not only to have been wronged, but insulted. Crapped upon, if you will.
SPD has had a federal monitor imposed on it, foreign leadership solicited, been publicly derided and berated by their political superiors, harshly criticized by the press and placed under what many feel are deeply impractical constraints counterproductive to the departmental missions of crime suppression and keeping the peace.
A white mutiny is, shall we say, less than completely surprising.
The officers I saw at Seattle Pride 2014 were not engaged in preventative activity or any form of crowd control, were disproportionately in the closing years of their careers, and did not appear to be significantly athletic. They were quite successful at traffic control (blocking the route with amazing frequency to move Duck Tours/Metro/Sound Transit Buses across said route), but beyond that their presence was both the sparsest and the most subdued I've ever seen at a Pride event.
The failure to intervene constructively (escorting agents provocateur from the route) before the crowd became combustible would bear an amazing resemblance to de-policing or white mutiny. "Why yes, we were respecting their First Amendment Rights...right till the beatings began..." would be well inside that kind of approach, right along with "No, once the beatings began, there was nothing we could do without violating our Use of Force policy...."
Fortunately, someone with either sense or some remaining sense of professionalism intervened before it became necessary to make such excuses.
"Gee, GC, that sounds like a really bad scene! But surely all else went well!"
Not so much. At the last moment, before things burst into flame, somebody clueful arranged for the Hatezoids to be escorted from the route...and the Parade kicked off...at 11 a.m. (remember that time).
Now, before folks get all festive and start screaming "MISOGYNIST HERETIC! MISOGYNIST HERETIC! READY THE STAKE!" let me be very clear that I love the Dykes on Bikes and their more recent and sillier iteration "Hooters on Scooters."
I love them as an individual - they are a proud tradition of joyous abandon that should lead every Pride Parade. I love them as a former organizer because, done right, 60+ screaming motorcycles will get folks off a parade route like nothing else imaginable - but they MUST go first down the route, with a certain amount of alacrity, or you will end up with overheated dead motorcycles all up and down your route. I even found the be-shirting to be rather depressing (whatever happened to electrical tape and courage?) and I am not noted for my enthusiasm for seeing hooters (especially super-annuated ones) waving in the breeze.
Dead motorcycles are bad - they kind of get in the way of a parade.
HOWEVER, it shouldn't take them half an hour to pass a given point. It shouldn't involve screaming motorcycles rolling up and down Fourth at what looked an awful lot like 50+ mph. And it shouldn't involve pedestrians (including children) waltzing through the middle of the motorcycle drill (thanks SPD! Thanks rented Pride security!). And while I'm clearly opposed to dumping a motorcycle into a crowd at *any* speed, I'm of the view that dumping a bike into a crowd while pushing 35mph is significantly less bad than doing so while pushing 50mph.
I've also observed that standing on the seat, rather than the pegs, while performing all of the above and waving ones ass in the air does not contribute significantly to improved control of the bike du jour.
Glad you're cute. Glad you feel cute. Glad you're free. Glad you're proud. Now, please don't kill us - not even by accident, not even with the best of intentions.
"BUT SURELY GC, ALL ELSE WAS WELL!!"
This is where I return to my normal analytical mode when it comes to Pride. Because the exciting/scary bit pretty much came to a screeching halt (thankfully) with the arrival of the more sedate Hooters on Scooters and another 20 minutes of two wheeled drill (for a total of 50 minutes of such).
The Parade was slow. Like a snail on quaaludes kind of slow.
The current system of selling the front end of the parade to the highest bidder with contingents of unlimited size has led to huge commercial and political contingents moving slowly near the front end that move *very slowly*. The Parade began at 11am - and was still going strong when I left at 2:30 p.m. No parade should *ever* last more than 3 hours.
George Takei was a great Grand Marshal.
Well, of course. What did you expect?
The Parade felt...like a slightly festive SeaFair.
Yes. Between the commercial and political elements, and the various tedious governmental agency representatives the uniqueness of our community got washed out and lost - the drag queens, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the bar floats, the leather community, BOHGOF and the sense of community seemed lost; so dispersed as to be almost irrelevant oddities at the parade they founded and that claims to represent their community.
Bah. Humbug. Terror and boredom is *not* what a Pride Parade should be about.