Cardiff Mardi Gras Protests Against Homophobia
5th September 2012In a sign of the changing mood and outlook of many LGBT workers and young people, this year’s Mardi Gras in Cardiff last Saturday (01.09.12) featured a protest march for the first time (in addition to the festival itself, held in Bute Park).
The Cardiff Mardi Gras, like Mardi Gras / Pride events elsewhere, is still a predominantly commercial event, as far as the main organisers were concerned, with local gay businesses heading the march itself; nevertheless, the marchers were mostly proud to inject some although (mainly 'identity') politics into it, with many chants of ‘proud to be queer’ and Stonewall’s ‘Gay? Get over it’ slogan and so on. The march through one of the busiest streets in Cardiff was exhilarating, lively and most definitely both proud and defiant; it was a pleasure to see us so welcomed by passer-bys, particularly younger people - a number of whom joined in once they’d seen us!
This reflected the real mood of determination to stand up to both homophobia and transphobia and ‘take back’ the streets for LGBTQ people. Although Labour, Plaid and the Liberals also had sizeable contingents, unsurprisingly perhaps it was the Socialist Party which made a explicitly political intervention – linking the need to fight prejudice and discrimination to opposing cuts to services. Our anti-commercial / anti-capitalist message received a warm welcome and hundreds eagerly took our ‘Pride: protest not profit’ leaflets, resonating with the most political marchers who clearly agreed with this anti-commercial theme with many individual placards such as ‘Pride not Profit’ providing a welcome contrast to the array of products and bars also promoted on the day.
Indeed, The Welsh Shop Stewards Network fitted into the rebellious spirit, joining in with the other trade union banners also predominant on the march, with a large contingent from Unite the Union in particular; this again indicates that LGBT workers are increasingly looking to their unions to organise and stand up for their rights.
However, it is shocking that it cost £6 per person to enter the Mardi Gras festival itself, pricing out many working class LGBT people. Whilst it was fantastic to share in the collective pride of all those who went in to the ticketed park event, Socialist Party members and NSSN campaigners were happy to remain campaigning at the park's entrance and we were thrilled by the number of people who signed our petition in support of equal marriage rights for all and our petition against homophobic bullying and cuts, with many copies of The Socialist happily sold.
Overall, the real mood of solidarity and strength permeated the march, despite the somewhat alien element of business promotion and advertisement also present on the day. The celebratory mood, with youngsters as young as seven years old leading some of the chanters (such as the Stonewall contingent, for example), gives us, a new generation of trade unionists, socialists and campaigners both young and old(er), the confidence that the struggle for LGBT liberation is far from over and the working class movement is on our side.
Report and photos Sarah Mayo