This year, the organisers of Glasgow Pride were ‘proud’ to put uniformed Scottish Police at the front of the Pride march. When a peaceful group raged against this and cut to the front of the march, a smaller, more radical group also cut into the protest. At this moment, the police decided to arrest 5 of the protesters. According to one arrestee, the police took 10 minutes before deciding the grounds of arrest, as well as failing to read the activists their rights.
Glasgow Pride sided with the police on this occasion, claiming they were ‘disappointed in the actions of a small group of people’ and they ‘fully encourage the participation of uniformed services’.
In doing so, what Glasgow Pride has failed to recognise is that Pride has historically been a protest. Moreover, Pride was originally a protest against police violence towards the LGBTQ+ community.
The travesty that happened at Glasgow Pride is not a deviation from the norm. In fact, it is merely the latest episode in a long history of mistreatment of the community. This malpractice on the part of police stems from the days where they enforced laws that criminalised homosexuality.
The most well-known example of this is police targeting of the community in New York City, leading to the Stonewall riots of 1969. Stonewall, often thought of as the birth of pride, was a riot against the NYPD of the time. A brutal raid of Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, led to these riots against the police treatment of the community.
Placing uniformed officers front and centre at Glasgow Pride shows either a complete ignorance of the history, or a wish to claim that the police are no longer violent and tyrannical when it comes to the community.
However, it is clear to see that this is a lie, with a 2015 study by the Urban Institute finding 71% of homeless LGBTQ+ youth in New York City have experienced police harassment, with 19% experiencing this on a weekly – even daily – basis.
This alone illustrates why police have no place at Pride events. However, it is also important to note that the role of police in the state is to protect the capitalist class and thus maintain class society.
Engles is key to understanding why the capitalist class are afraid of the LGBTQ+ community. The nuclear family is completely necessary for class society to exist. Without this, there is no ability to pass down property from generation to generation. Given that queer couples have not, traditionally, been able to replicate this, the queer community posed a systematic threat to class society and shows why the state was so afraid of queer people. With the victories gay people have won against inequality and oppression, the state and establishment have attempted instead to co-opt and de-politicise it, when in fact sexual oppression and inequality still exist as products of the generally unequal and exploitative society we live in.
We must be aware that the police exist as an arm of the capitalist state, will always defend privilege and property and the status quo, and are no friends of the oppressed.
This impacts on their tactics for policing large events, particularly political ones: when oppressed and exploited people are assembled in large numbers, it is the job of the police to contain – not facilitate – the activity of this group. This is because, should the group wish to, they are in numbers large enough to pose a threat to class society.
This results in violent and confrontational policing, as evidenced by Hillsborough, Orgreave, the 2010 student protests, Glasgow Pride, and more.
Conversely, as with the homophobic Christian group at Glasgow Pride, reactionary groups tend to be treated in a more even handed way by the police, as their abhorrent views do not challenge – and often support – class and capitalist society.
This illustrates that fact that, in class society, the police – as an institution – will never be a friend of the working class nor of marginalised groups. We offer full solidarity to our comrades who protested the presence of the police at Glasgow Pride and applaud their efforts in to re-politicise Pride. A Pride protester, on the ground, with a policeman’s arm around their neck, is proof that we still need Pride to be a protest. The fight for socialism is the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Let us smash the homophobic and exploitative state. Let us smash capitalism and fight for a socialist future.