Things were a little bit different at this year’s Utah Pride parade … for anyone who paid close attention.
No police presence at the front of the parade on Sunday morning in downtown Salt Lake City. More diversity represented in the first entries. And a bit of an undercurrent of dissent.
The parade was as loud, raucous, jubilant and colorful as ever. There were drag queens, bears, young men in speedos, masters and slaves, along with parents pushing toddlers in strollers, teachers and church groups — all amidst a multitude of rainbow flags and an enormous amount of glitter.
And, although there were rumors that a group opposed to some of the event’s corporate sponsors would try to disrupt the parade, that didn’t happen. Instead, the group was itself incorporated into the parade.
“We’re here to protest the corporate participation in the parade,” said Esther Merono Baro, a member of a group calling itself Queers Divest. “We know that corporate banking is part of a system of oppression that hurts the most marginalized among us, particularly people of color, immigrants and the poor.”
The group had raised its concerns — singling out Wells Fargo and Chase — just days before the parade. And Pride Center executive director Rob Moolman offered them a place in the parade to air their grievances.
“Definitely, in hindsight, I would have loved to have started earlier,” said Kat Kellermeyer, an organizer of Queers Divest, who added that the group had not planned to block the parade route.
“I feel like the least appropriate way to do that is to disrupt something that means so much to our community,” she said — although Queers Divest did lay down in the middle of 200 South at about 150 East for several minutes, delaying the parade for several minutes.
“We’re going to revisit this and examine these issues more closely,” Kellermeyer said. “I feel like we have a really unique opportunity to move forward from this stronger and better as a queer community.”
The 25-member group marched ahead of many of the corporate-sponsor groups, chanting, “Don’t deny it, Stonewall was a riot” and “Pride is a protest.” And they were met by applause and cheers from the parade-goers lining 200 South.
Although the same applause and cheers met the corporate sponsors, and the hundreds of marchers in those groups — including a large group from Wells Fargo — seemed unaware they were the targets of a protest.
(The typical protesters were also on hand — holding signs proclaiming “Homo sex is sin” and “Ask me why you deserve hell,” and cordoned off behind fences and tape amidst smiling pride celebrants.)
Parade organizers had reached out to the Utah Coalition of La Raza to bring the group, which advocates for Hispanics, on board.
“We’re showing the intersectionalities between our communities,” said UCLR vice president Eva Lopez. “The queer, LGBTQ communities and the LatinX community are natural allies, and we’re here in allegiance today to celebrate that.”
UCLR was one of the first entries in Sunday’s parade, as was Utah’s Black Lives Matters group.
“We’re here because we want to help all marginalized groups and make sure people are aware we’re not some mean, down-with-the-government group,” said Genny Bailey, the LGBTQ+ leader of that group. “We just want people to see us and know that our lives do matter.”
It’s part of an effort to add diversity to the parade, which had sometimes been criticized for being so overwhelmingly white.
“That’s what we’re trying to change,” Bailey said. “Personally, my goal with my committee is to work with the Pride Center to become more intersectional.”
The politics playing out behind the scenes of the parade were only a footnote, however. This was not a seminar, it was an expression of joy and freedom and, yes, pride.
“I love the parade,” said a drag performer who goes by the name of Molly Mormon. “It’s so fun because it’s everybody coming together. Throughout the weekend, we all have our events and our things that we do. The parade is that time when we’re all actually together.
“And it’s stupid, but it’s amazing.”