Saturday morning, Kanawha Plaza was a sea of people sporting rainbows and fabulous drag queens from all over gathered for VA Pride Fest 2012, part of a national event for LGBTQ awareness.
One thing, though, was missing from the traditional Prides of other cities: a parade.
VA Pride was a gathering of vendors and a stage for drag queens and musicians. Daniel Speed, who attended VA Pride last year, said he was less than satisfied with this year’s event.
“Last year there were more people. I’m kind of disappointed with this year’s Pride. It’s just vendors and a stage,” Speed said.
Pride parades are a celebration for the LGBTQ community and also serve as a demonstration for the fight for civil rights. Most cities host Pride events in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
The Stonewall Riots are one of the first well-known incidences of LGBTQ rebellion against the government and police. On June 28, 1969 at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, NY, the LGBTQ community fought against police raids of the bar, which were a normal occurance. Police raids often included line-ups, arrests and physical and sexual harassment of the LGBTQ attendees.
Within six months of the riots, activist organizations began forming groups to promote LGBTQ rights and equality. The Stonewall Riots are often considered the start of the movement for civil rights in the LGBTQ community.
The next year, on the anniversary of the riots, the first Pride marches were held in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Parades have been held in cities all over the United States since then and all hold the same message that everyone should take pride in their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Pride in Richmond is quite different from the traditional events of other cities though. More than 50 vendors had tables set up in Kanawha Plaza this past Saturday. Vendors included Pride Fest sponsors, such as Nationwide Insurance and Wells Fargo. Organizations in the LGBTQ community, such as Equality Virginia and the Gay Community Center of Virginia also participated. A stage was also set up for drag queens, DJs and musicians to perform.
Caitlynn Samuel, the president of VCU’s Queer Action, has attended Richmond and Washington D.C. Pride events for the past four years.
“D.C. Pride is, in my opinion, a lot better because there are bigger sponsors, more vendors at the festival and a parade,” Samuel said. “It’s a bigger event that lasts all weekend instead of just one day. It’s a much bigger crowd.”
While parades are allowed in the City of Richmond, there are strict laws about how the parade must be managed. The City of Richmond defines a parade as “any march, procession or motorcade … that interferes with or has a tendency to interfere with the normal flow or regulation of pedestrian or vehicular traffic upon the streets, sidewalks or other public property.”
Parades in Richmond cannot “unreasonably interrupt the safe and orderly movement of vehicular or pedestrian traffic or the normal use of public property in a place open to the general public.”
One of the largest traditional parades in Richmond is the annual Christmas parade on Broad Street, which keeps part of the street open for vehicles. The annual Easter parade on Monument Avenue is a lot like Richmond Pride, where it does not move down a street, but simply gathers in one area and invites people to join in the festivities.
Chairman of VA Pride and Director of Nominations, Amy Lockett, explained that new parades are not permitted in Richmond and that many of the parades here, like the Christmas parade, are grandfathered in. “I wish we could have one. Many have asked for it, but we are unfortunately limited by regulations,” Lockett said.
Pride Parades are celebrated annually to make the LGBTQ community visible to the public.
“I think VA Pride should work on incorporating a parade if Richmond ever lets it become possible,” Samuels said. “The parade is an important aspect of Pride because it’s so visible. Instead of being tucked in (Kanawha) Plaza having our own event, a visible parade would make it seem like a true ‘out and prideful’ celebration of who we are.”