For the second year running, firearm enthusiasts will be marching and staffing a booth at the Bellingham Pride Parade. The Whatcom County Chapter of Washington Open Carry has signed up as one of the hundreds of groups to march in the parade. In response, the Occupy Bellingham organization petitioned Bellingham Pride Parade to disallow Open Carry from the parade and celebration afterward, and when they were refused, Occupy pulled out of the parade, refusing to participate.
Let’s unpack this a bit. First, I believe that it is incredibly insensitive for open carry advocates to insert themselves into an event like this. After years and years of very real threats, intimidation and violence from those around them, the LGBTQ community is finally able to walk down the street of their hometown without fear.
Other communities still face bomb threats and violent attacks on the LGBTQ community in an attempt to silence their pride festivals. So to have people come to this event and brandish high-powered firearms is more than a little alarming for many attendees.
That said, that is the whole point of why Open Carry advocates are doing this. Pride festivals have been very successful at focusing the public attention in a positive way on the progress we have made on civil rights. They remind people that there are thousands of LGBTQ members in their community and make that point in a very positive way.
By generating this controversy and getting people worked up at each other, Open Carry is unraveling the progress Pride festivals have made.Why do I think they are deliberately trying to spark a reaction? Not only are they marching in the parade, but they scheduled a “family picnic” the day before the parade . . . at the same park and day as the Bellingham Pride family picnic.
It is possible this a coincidence but it seems to me like the open carry advocates are trying awfully hard to be in the same places as the Pride folks. With the Occupy Bellingham folks pulling out, they have already achieved some of their goals in sowing doubt and dissent within usually parallel organizations.
So I say, ignore them. They filled out their paperwork, followed all the rules and can march in the parade. They want to spark a reaction, that’s their goal. Let’s not give it to them.
In the internet world, we call this “not feeding the trolls.” Let’s keep the attention focused on the central mission of Bellingham Pride, “. . . to create a festival that everyone can be proud of.” You can watch a video they made promoting the festival here.
I will be marching this year in Pride. Come join me in celebrating all members of our community. I will be marching with the Whatcom Democrats, my wife will be with the Planned Parenthood marchers and neither one of us will give the Open Carry advocates another moment of our time at this event.