Satuday, the 20,000 paradegoers attending Johannesburg Pride were surprised by protestors demonstrating against LGBT hate crimes and the “depoliticization” of the annual event.
The largest Pride on the Continent started off at Zoo Lake Sports Club before noon, but came to a halt on Rosebank’s Jan Smuts Avenue when members of the 1 in 9 campaign blocked a major intersection. According to Mambo Online, the demonstrators laid out life-sized dummies and banners that read “Dying For Justice” and “No Cause for Celebration.”
Over the past two years Johannesburg has been plagued by a rash of grizzly murders of gay men under similar circumstances. It wasn’t until the eighth killing, in March, that authorities considered the possibility that the incidents were related. The leader of 1 in 9, Carrie Shelver, describes the g roup as a “feminist collective of predominantly queer women.” Shelver said their intention was to to create a moment of silence in recognitions of the murders.
Pride celebrants were reportedly confused by the ambush—some thinking it was led by anti-gay group—and a scuffle started when marshals tried to tear down the banners. “It’s embarrassing and tragic that something like this happened,” said one paradegoer. “We’re all on the same side. We’re all fighting for the same thing.”
Joburg Pride organizer Tanya Harford say 1 in 9 should have come to them first:
“If they had bothered to contact the Board we would have been very open to working with them. “We would have had no problem to have had a minute’s silence and we could have made a very powerful statement that would have benefited them.”
Shelver admitted that the group had not approached Pride organisers beforehand. When Mambaonline asked if the ambush nature of the protest could not have come across as confrontational, confusing and aggressive, Shelver replied that “we see ourselves as part of the LGBT community and we believed that we were able to do it”.
Harford insisted that the protest was “absolutely inappropriate and illegal. They had none of the necessary permissions. They also embarrassed the entire LGBT community. The campaign wasn’t explained nor was it clear about what their purpose is.
“They shot themselves in the foot. We are all horrified and outraged by any discriminatory crimes against LGBT people, but I just feel that what they did was, in my opinion, short-sighted and blinkered. No one knew what they were saying or who they were.”
The parade eventually continued with no further incident, ending in the late afternoon with performances by Ola, Crazy White Boy and Flash Republic. Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Andries Nel made a surprised appearance, telling the crowd that while there was work to be done, his office was “proud to be proud with you today.”