Eugene Pride teams up with Black Unity to bring attention to Black Trans Lives
Janusz Malo, Lead Contributor
Eugene Pride 2020 was not a traditional Pride–it was a declaration that Black Trans Lives Matter.
Despite the official Eugene Pride being canceled due to Covid restrictions, those with Pride & Allyship decided otherwise. With Black Trans lives under attack like never before, the Eugene community decided that they could no longer remain silent.
Pride goers, a coalition of community members, gathered at the Wayne L. Morse Federal Courthouse before commencing with a march to Skinner Butte. In attendance was Transgender Antifascists International, Planned Parenthood Southwest Oregon, the Eugene chapter of the Democractic Socalists Of America, and HIV Alliance—who provided at home HIV testing kits. Also in attendance were blunt-smoking twinks, retirees handing out both rainbow & Trans flags, and a human Pride pup—whose hood received a compliment from Mayor Vinis—representing the kink community.
Members of Black Unity, the local BLM activist group, were sporting new black sweatshirts with a rainbow colored ‘X’ as they set up the trucks and sound system they have been using for recent protests. One man handed out Black Lives Matter bracelets, but not before asking goers to take an oath to defend and stand up for Black lives.
“By accepting and wearing this bracelet, I commit to standing up for my Black friends and neighbors in all situations, social or political.”
Women, men, young, old, BIPOC, and White; this community coalition came together to celebrate and defend Black Trans Lives.
Before starting the march, Eugene City Councilman Greg Evans and State Senator James Manning spoke to the crowd. Councilman Evans shared that his youngest brother married a trans woman and asked the crowd to wish them a happy 15th anniversary. Evans also told the crowd that “we will defeat 45,” along with a reminder to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing. He ended his speech telling the crowd to listen to Dr. Fauci, not “45.”
Sen. Manning began his speech by saying that “I see a crowd of love, I see America,” Sen. Manning discussed LGBT Veterans and active duty servicemen and women affirming their right to serve in the armed forces, and dismayed by the notion that the military is a place for hetereosxual Americans only. In ending his speech he left the crowd with some words of wisdom.
“With unity,” Sen. Manning said. “We will create a brand new America.”
Omar Al Rais from Planned Parenthood affirmed the organization’s stance that all individuals deserve access to healthcare, as well as expressing pride in Planned Parethood’s ability to provide hormone treatment for transgender patients.
All speeches had an ASL translator for deaf community members in attendance.
The march to Skinner Butte was filled with a variety of chants, chants spoken & yelled with fervent passion.
“We’re here, we’re Queer, we’re fabulous, get used to it!”
“United not divided!”
“Black Trans Lives Matter!”
“1234, open up your closet door! 5678, don’t assume your kids are straight!”
When the march arrived at the Eugene Saturday Market, a speaker urged market goers to join the march and to stand up for Queer lives. Instead, most starred and didn’t offer support.
The last stop of the march before ending at the park was at the intersection of Washington and 8th. Black Unity leadership passed the microphone to Libra Forde, the chief officer at Self Enhancement Inc. and addressed the crowd for exactly eight minutes and forty six seconds in honor of George Floyd.
Forde spoke of her journey from New York City to Damascus, Oregon. When she saw no one in Damascus that looked like her family, she researched Oregon’s past.
“When I looked up the history of Oregon I realized that my life might not matter here,” Forde said.
She brought her speech to a harmonious end with applause and cheers from the crowd. The protest marched on, leaving chalk pictures and slogans scattered on the street in their wake.
Once at Skinner Butte, food was provided by local businesses Party Downtown, Sizzle Pie, Laughing Planet, & Noisette. The Peaceful Palate and Irie Jamacian Kitchen food carts were also in attendance. Pride organizers themselves provided water, sparkling water, juice, and hand sanitizer—social distancing and mask wearing were enforced by food handlers who kept everyone in a single line.
Unfortunately, the Pride was also subject to menacing counter-protestors–many of whom have been regularly spotted at local protests–and their intimidation tactics. Using side streets, parking lots, and general distance, counter-protestors refused to leave Queer comunity members in peace.
Before the march even started, a few counter-protesters released a plume of black exhaust smoke before speeding off. Another man in a tiny red car drove by and screamed “Trump!” Counter-protesters followed the march in their trucks.
As the Bike Safety Crew provided traffic control during a brief stop for a teach-in, a counter-protester in a truck sped towards them before turning at the last second, nearly running down five crew members, then gave the crew the middle finger. After the turn, they nearly hit a parked car. In order to avoid hitting the car, they whipped the truck to the left, causing it to tilt on two tires and nearly flip over. The truck later returned to follow the marchers from a distance.
Once all Pride goers had arrived at Skinner Butte, and not unlike other Eugene marches and protests, counter-protestors circled the park for the entirety of the event.
Eugene Police Department was nowhere to be seen, though the police historically provide a presence at Pride events. Even when Pride has requested that police not attend their events, the police still keep a respectable distance to ensure safety. Given EPD’s constant police surveillance—whether it be drones, distanced cars, or undercover officers—of BLM marches and events, their absence was noticeable.
While no one attending Pride shared concern over the lack of police, the EPD’s absence—which helped facilitate the counter-protester menacing— painted a clear picture.