The historic legacy of the Stonewall Uprising is still felt in the needs of the queer people struggling desperately against the toxic system that oppresses them in the United States and around the world. For many, Pride celebrations in the month of June are the only remnants of the Queer Power movement they can still practically lay claim to; much of those have been taken control of by the capitalists and police state that the Stonewall Uprising fought against. But in Detroit, the home of another historic rebellion, the police showed their true colors before the gathered queer people at their own local pride celebration by marching with neo-Nazis in a heated standoff.
On Saturday, June 8, the first day of Motor City Pride ground to a halt as the line of attendees waiting to pay for entry saw a swastika-emblazoned flag flying on the opposite side of Jefferson Avenue, the main riverside boulevard in Detroit. Soon, a small clique of shield-bearing Nazis came into view, toting a bullhorn and, alarmingly enough, carrying at least one rifle.
This was not the first that Pride attendees had heard of Nazis being interested in “counterprotesting” this event; claims were made online by the National Socialist Movement that they would come out in force almost a month prior. Shortly before the sighting, postings online placed the white supremacists near the police station (fittingly enough). However, the white nationalists would have remained a hateful but ultimately powerless insult to the queer locals had their Detroit Police Department escort not formed a tight cluster around the Nazis and ushered them across the street, directly into the Pride event’s line for entry.
Immediately, there was resistance: the crosswalk was blocked by local organizers, including some from a Food Not Class (FNC) collective “feed”, serving free food and water to the lines of attendees, Red Orchestra, and youth comrades from the Communist Workers League flyering for the Taking Back Pride initiative. Firsthand accounts report attempts to keep the Nazis and their police chaperones from crossing into the thick lines of queer celebrants, but the officers forced the small band of protestors to move back with shouts and threats, making way for the Nazis to march down the line waiting for entry.
The Nazi group, totaling somewhere between eight and 15 people, was surrounded by dozens of police while hundreds of queers and allies demanded that they leave. One of the FNC organizers used their bullhorn to lead chants against the Nazis, drowning out their hate speech as they moved ineffectually from one end of Hart Plaza to the other, shouting “Nazis fuck off!” and “You don’t belong here!”
Police on the scene defended the Nazis’ march; one was quoted as saying, “They have the same rights as you.” This, naturally, is an abject lie; there are no states where Nazis are forbidden from marrying or adopting children, or states where they are not guaranteed housing or work protections.
As their trudge took them past the Motor City Pride gates of entry, the Nazis were forced to stop, unable to push past the group of organizers blocking the sidewalk at the Food Not Class feed table. Confronted with shouts of “Queer Power!” the police ushered their Nazi companions across the busy intersection, blocking it with several cruisers so they could flee across Jefferson Avenue through the bush-covered median. They were followed by the anti-fascist, anti-capitalist organizers to the parking lot where they had parked a rented van. Escaping the jeers of the crowd, the Nazis left having done little more than proven whose side the police were on. With their departure, the crowd—and their police counterparts—finally dispersed.
But the assault levied by the Detroit Police Department and their white nationalist ideologues had chosen the wrong target; Motor City Pride was already an exclusive event designed to support the capitalist power structure that both police and white nationalists are a part of. The struggling queer people of Detroit have no ownership over Motor City Pride, which exists to sell food, merchandise, cars, banks and police propaganda to an under-marketed community without offering them real resources.
In the end, the event which operates as a scheme to indoctrinate the potential radical queers that frightened society so powerfully at Stonewall and through ACT UP over the last 50 years into a pro-capitalist, pro-oppression worldview only succeeded in showing where the police’s interests really lie. These events have demonstrated yet again that it is Queer Power, not just pride—and certainly not rainbow capitalism—that is needed to defeat the enemies of queer liberation: homophobic racists and their police friends.