‘Complicity Is Horrifying,’ No Justice No Pride Action
Above photo: From left, Emmelia Talarico, Aaryn Lang and Lourdes Ashley Hunter protest in front of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at the beginning of the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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On October 28th, the Human Rights Campaign held its 21st annual “national dinner,” a lavish $400-per-plate fundraiser at the Washington, DC convention center. Celebrities, corporate CEO’s, bankers, and politicians cam together for a night of self-congratulatory celebration, raising money for an organization that for decades has worked to achieve its narrow vision of equality that ignores the lived realities of most of the trans and queer community.
HRC’s national dinner has been one of the most glaring examples of the mainstream LGBT movement’s myopic attempt to align itself with big corporations, weapons manufacturers, out of touch politicians, predatory banks, and wealthy donors. This year is no different, just look at the dinner’s Presenting Sponsor: Wells Fargo.
“Wells Fargo has demonstrated a high level of commitment to equality,” reads the website for HRC’s national dinner. “Please consider supporting those that support us.”
Support “us”? Who is us? Who exactly does Wells Fargo support?
“Us” doesn’t include 120,000 individuals currently held in private prisons (to which Wells Fargo provides funding and invests in) or their loved ones.
“Us” certainly doesn’t include the nearly 15,000 immigrants who are detained each day in private detentions centers (to which Wells Fargo provides funding and invests in).
“Us” doesn’t include the Native communities whose sacred land was decimated by the Dakota Access Pipeline (to which Wells Fargo provided funding).
“Us” doesn’t include the trans Wells Fargo employee who received an undisclosed settlement after she was harassed and mocked nearly to the point of suicide by her coworkers and managers.
“Us” doesn’t include Black folks in Ferguson, Missouri, (and countless other cities across the US) where the foreclosure rate has risen to 50% because of Wells Fargo’s racist predatory lending.
“Us” doesn’t include people of color in Baltimore, who were targeted for subprime loans – or what Wells Fargo employees themselves like to call “ghetto loans.”
Racism isn’t just a by-product of Wells Fargo’s actions – it is at the core of its practices across the board. From its financing of the private prison system, immigrant detention facilities and the Dakota Access Pipeline to its predatory lending practices that target communities of color, to the way it treats its own employees, Wells Fargo demonstrates a toxic disregard – if not outright disdain – for people of color, immigrants and Native communities.
In the current political climate, when people of color, trans folks, immigrants, and working class folks are under attack, HRC continues to celebrate and promote – of all possible corporate sponsors – Wells Fargo.
For years HRC has worked to slowly kill the dream of radical trans and queer liberation – a vision of liberation that recognizes the vast diversity of the queer and trans community and the fact that none of us can be free until all of us are free. By abandoning the most vulnerable members of our communities and prioritizing the most powerful, HRC has appealed to the United States’ core values: White Supremacy, Respectability, and Capitalist Greed. With this “strategy” they have taken aim at the laws that keep powerful, cisgender, white gays and lesbians from fully accessing their privilege.
But HRC doesn’t just ignore the rest of us. Instead, they partner with institutions like Wells Fargo that contribute to our marginalization, helping ensure that their corporate partners – like Wells Fargo – appear on the “right side of history.” It’s a win-win: HRC gets money, corporations get a “socially-responsible” façade, while they continue to perpetuate toxic systems of oppression.
In recent years HRC has tried to get with the program. They’ve tried to provide symbolic support to causes like Black Lives Matter and the movement for immigrant justice. But these efforts are in bullshit as long as they continue their partnership with Wells Fargo. HRC needs a wake up call.
At this year’s national dinner, that’s exactly what we provided. This year our radical dream of trans and queer liberation came back from the dead.
Protesters, many dressed as zombies, on Saturday marched around the Walter E. Washington Convention Center where the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner was about to begin. Following the march, a number of activists blocked the front entrances to the convention center.
Other doors on the side of the convention center were opened to accommodate guests.
A statement released by the activist group No Justice No Pride stated the protesters dressed as zombies to “reflect the horror done by HRC partnering with a monster like Wells Fargo.”
Wells Fargo served as the presenting sponsor of the 21st annual HRC National Dinner.
“In June, at the Pride Parade, we targeted Capital Pride’s willingness to sell our communities out to harmful corporations,” said Emmelia Talarico, chair of No Justice No Pride’s steering committee. “Today, we’re targeting HRC’s willingness to do the same.”
Talarico was referring to the activist group’s disruption of the Capital Pride Parade in a non-violent direct action last June.
“For decades, the LGBT movement has cast aside the most marginalized in pursuit of ‘equality’ for the most privileged members of our communities,” continued Talarico. “Our hope is that No Justice No Pride’s actions begin to wake the LGBT establishment up to the fact that there is a new generation of trans and queer folks with bigger, broader and more radical dreams of liberation. Dreams inspired by the lives of our ancestors — like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson and Audre Lorde — which are fundamentally incompatible with entities like Wells Fargo.”
“We have had enough of the juggernaut non-profits profiting off the lives of black bodies, brown bodies, indigenous bodies, undocumented bodies: Fuck HRC,” said Lourdes Ashley Hunter, executive director of the Trans Woman of Color Collective as she was bound to the security fence around the convention center. “Now more than ever it is important for our voices to be heard. We cannot continue to let these organizations represent us. They don’t represent us, number one, and we know that.”
Hunter continued, “They represent their capitalist interests. They represent their white, cis gay pajama parties, they represent everything that liberation is not standing for. And so we’re here today to not only say ‘fuck HRC,’ ‘fuck Wells Fargo,’ well fuck everybody who paid $400 to come up in here and continue this shit.”
“It is really important now more than ever that we identify who is on our side and who is not,” said Aaryn Lang of the activist group GetEqual. “HRC hasn’t gotten clear, so we’re here to ease them along the process. Until they decide to make a choice that is honorary of the LGBT movement that actually wants to see the liberation for black and brown bodies, we will continue to fuck HRC.”
No arrests were made and the group dispersed after the HRC event started.