I’ve just returned from my trip out east. Part of the trip was to visit my sister and her family in Northern Virginia and join with my best friends there to attend the Pride events including the Equality March in Washington D.C. I hope that you were able to see some of the photos on Facebook. The trip was great and the Pride event was everything I had hoped it would be and more.
I want to share with you a powerful experience I had last weekend. We had waited over an hour in the blistering heat for the Pride Parade on Saturday. The parade had barely begun when, right next to us, a group of protesters chained themselves across the parade route with bicycle locks. What they were protesting, I am still not 100% clear about. I do know that part of it was in objection to the DC police (which has an LGBTQI division) being part of the parade. I also know that they objected to the commercialization of the parade (they were many corporate groups participating and some sponsoring the event). This was not an anti-Pride group at all. In fact, they shared the same core values as the community that organized the parade. Now remember, this was not the March, but the parade, a fun part of most Pride celebrations in most cities.
These protestors had stopped the parade cold. The crowd was hot and tired and wanted to see a parade. The crowd was at least 8 people deep on the sidewalk on each side of the street and stretched for blocks. Many were not at all happy about the parade coming to a stand still. As the police and parade organizers gathered with the protesters right in front of us I turned to my daughter and said, “If this takes a bad turn, just grab your stuff and run right down the middle of the street.” It never did turn bad. The police were kind and more worried about the safety of the protesters. As the crowd got frustrated and started to chant “Let them go!” (meaning let the parade continue) the parade organizers quieted them. Right in front of us I saw one of the parade leaders interviewed for television commenting on the protesters right to do this and the disappointment that they could not have worked this out prior to the parade. She defended their right to protest, even though it messed up their celebration.
The parade was re-routed to another street and we got to see it all. I have a neck full of beads to prove it! The police contained the protesters and protected them until they disbanded. When the DC metro police marched by on the new route they received huge cheers of support.
The next day was the Equality March. They had anticipated 200,000 people but I am sure there were more than anticipated. We lined up an hour before the march started. I spent most of the time crying at every sign I saw, particularly those “Mama Bears” supporting their LGBTQI children. Again, it was 100 degrees in the shade. The route took us past the White House and while things could have easily turned angry or even violent most of the chants were of this nature – “Love not hate/make America great”. The marchers were kind, not only with each other, but extended greetings and well wishes the the Capital Police and Secret Service Agents that stood guard in front of the White House. The most exciting thing that happened was that a young man in front of us got on his knee to propose to his boyfriend.
The Equality March was in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting that had happened the year before in Orlando. The point was to speak up for equality and social justice peacefully and to put an end to senseless violence. The March stood in stark contrast to not only the violence in Orlando, but the event that would happen just a couple of days later when a armed man opened fire on Republican legislators during a baseball practice.
Violence is never the answer. We know that. That is what our faith tells us and what Jesus himself modeled for us. No matter how strongly we feel about a person, ideal, or policy, violence cannot resolve it. Meeting hate with hate never works. My experience last weekend was a powerful one. I felt the blazing heat (literally and figuratively) of frustration. But also the warm glow of pride and love and the power of meeting hate with love.
It reminds me of the church family. We do not all agree on every issue. We may hold vastly different views on politics. But we openly share our ideas. We listen and care and agree to disagree. And we love each other. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to see that lived out.
I close this post with my favorite quote from last year’s Tony Awards….