On the evening of 29 June, protest group Just Stop Oil posted on its Twitter account stating that it had been “in negotiations with the organisers of Pride in London”. The climate activist group is demanding that Pride “return to its protest roots”, and align itself with the demand to halt oil production:
Around an hour later, Just Stop Oil posted a list of their three demands:
A 30 June press release from the group stated that:
We are a group of LGBTQ+ supporters of Just Stop Oil. We have been taking action against the licensing of new oil, gas and coal in the UK, repeatedly putting our bodies and our liberty on the line, in resistance to a government which has been bought by corporations and fossil fuel capital. We take action because the government is continuing to develop new fossil fuel projects in 2023, even though the world’s climate scientists agree that this threatens the collapse of our food systems and the breakdown of ordered society.
Pride is a protest
Now, first things first, Pride is – or at least should be – a protest. This is at the core of its history. Pride originated as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. In turn, the march marked the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riot.
In the riot, queer patrons of the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Manhattan rose up in response to aggressive and repeated police raids. The first Pride was, very literally, about throwing rocks at cops.
Some modern Prides – and especially London’s – have drifted away from that spirit of protest into one of celebration. Now, with rising homophobic hate crimes and a government-led crackdown on trans lives, we could surely do with a return to “protest roots” – just as Just Stop Oil is asking.
Likewise, the first point on Just Stop Oil’s list of demands seems laudable. The group stated that it requires:
Clarity on where Pride sources its money from, what floats are included and what ethical considerations are taken when deciding where to accept money from
Pride in London is somewhat notorious for its poor attitude to social justice issues more broadly. Just Stop Oil offered “some context” of the event’s deplorable sponsorship deals. In particular, the Green London Assembly criticised Pride’s choice of headline sponsor – United Airlines.
Beyond that, London’s Pride has a history of both racism and being overly cosy with police. Despite the Met’s well-documented homophobia, it was only last year that uniformed officers were only told not to march.
So, I’m all for transparency on the parade’s funding and ethical considerations. Great so far.
Climate is an LGBT+ issue
Then, onto Just Stop Oil’s second demand:
Pride makes a statement to demand an end to new oil and gas.
Again, all good! Any new oil and gas extraction scuppers our planet’s chances of remaining within the tolerable limits of the 1.5C warming set by the Paris Climate Agreements, or even its 2C upper bounds.
The climate, without an attempt at hyperbole, is a queer issue. In the Global North, poor people are disproportionately impacted by climate change – and LGBT+ individuals are disproportionately likely to be poor. Furthermore, in the Global South, climate change drives forced migration – and LGBT+ people are more likely to be mistreated by border security forces.
This being the case, Pride – and queer movements more broadly – have a moral duty to stand in solidarity with climate defenders. However, this is where the problem with Just Stop Oil’s threat creeps in. To me, what they’re doing doesn’t look much like solidarity.
Just Stop Oil: Solidarity – or else
That brings us to Just Stop Oil’s third and final demand:
Pride to set a public meeting for it’s volunteers about joining in civil resistance against new oil and gas, and why the climate crisis is the biggest threat to LGBT+ rights, due to societal collapse.
Along with the list, they set an ultimatum:
We will wait 24 hours, as of 4pm today (28/06), for Pride to respond to our demands and the actions Pride will take. Beyond this time or not meeting these demands will mean we may or may not take action at this weekend’s events.
The ultimatum’s time limit has now elapsed. However, at the time of writing, neither Pride nor Just Stop Oil had confirmed whether any response had been issued. It’s this last demand – and accompanying threat – where I feel the climate group has overstepped its mark.
Is this your solidarity?
Now, solidarity between progressive movements is hugely important. Chances are, at any given Pride in the UK, you’ll see a handful of people wearing “Pits and Perverts” t-shirts. These refer to a slogan used by Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM):
a political activist group of gay women and men that formed in a spirt of solidarity with the striking miners in 1984. Mark Ashton, one of the founders, saw the struggle of the miners as the same faced by gay people fighting for their rights against a government that would not listen.
LGSM supported the Neath Dulais and Swansea Valley Miners mining communities during the 1984 strikes. Its fundraisers generated £20,000 for direct aid. This is what queer solidarity looks like at its best.
What Just Stop Oil are demanding is nothing like this. It’s not a hand across a divide. To put it bluntly, they’ve issued a vague threat in an attempt to co-opt what should be a queer protest space.
‘Help us make your activists into our activists… or else’ is not a way to foster community – which isn’t even to mention the greater threat to queer people that accompanies being arrested as part of a climate protest or elsewhere.
Learn it, and come back
Let me be completely clear. I want Pride to be a real protest again, and especially London’s corporate, pinkwashed parody. Fuck knows we need it now. Oil money has no goddamn place within 100 miles of a queer march. Hell, I don’t particularly think any corporations belong in Pride – half of them scarper as soon as the winds of public opinion change.
That said, Just Stop Oil can – for now – sling its hook right along with United Airlines. Go away and learn what solidarity and community building actually look like. I know you can manage it.
Hell, I’ll even take a statement of support for any of the numerous actual queer protests in the UK. If Just Stop Oil has ever made one, I couldn’t bloody find it.
Just Stop Oil had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Featured image via Unsplash/Raphael Renter