Plans for two local solidarity marches to coincide with a national pride and unity walk in Washington, D.C., have created tensions between Seattle PrideFest and Capitol Hill Pride Festival March & Rally organizers.
Those frustrations came to a head during a meeting hosted by Capitol Hill Pride Festival March & Rally (Capitol Hill Pride) on Tuesday, where director Charlette LeFevre argued there should only be one pride march on Sunday, June 11, and the Equality March for Unity and Pride — Seattle event that her organization is developing should be it.
LeFevre said the International Association of Pride Organizers (InterPride) is overseeing solidarity events for the LGBT March on D.C., and Capitol Hill Pride has registered to be the official representative for a sister march in Seattle.
PrideFest is also holding National Pride March Seattle on June 11, and also in solidarity with the march in Washington, D.C., which is being called the LGBT equivalent of the Women’s March that was held in January.
These events are separate from the Pride Weekend events that take place June 24-25 in Seattle, such as the Seattle Pride Parade, Seattle Dyke March and Capitol Hill Pride Festival.
LeFevre not only opposes PrideFest organizing a solidarity march the same day as Capitol Hill Pride’s Equality March for Unity and Pride, she believes PrideFest’s National Pride March Seattle should not lead marchers away from Capitol Hill and downtown to the Seattle Center. She told PrideFest executive director Egan Orion that will take attention away from businesses and LGBT nonprofits in Capitol Hill.
PrideFest board member Asher Rohan said he isn’t interested in making business owners happy as much as he is in creating a movement as large and influential as the Women’s March. Rohan said it doesn’t make sense to isolate a march to Capitol Hill, where the LGBT community is already well represented.
“So, you’re going to keep it in an isolated area where we already exist, instead of bringing it to Seattle, the center of the city, where everyone that lives here can be a part of it,” Rohan said. “People that live in Ballard who aren’t gay, moms who have babies and live in Queen Anne who aren’t going to come to Capitol Hill.”
LeFevre said asking people to march from Capitol Hill to the Seattle Center creates a hardship for some people. Rohan countered the Women’s March was also long, and many people showed up — more than 20,000.
LeFevre continued to argue Capitol Hill Pride’s Equality March for Unity and Pride is following the guidelines established by InterPride, adding she has an internal memo from InterPride establishing it as the sister march organizer. She did not have the memo handy on Tuesday, prompting Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce executive director Sierra Hansen to tell her not to bring it up if she couldn’t show proof.
“Don’t quote requirements that you can’t share with us publicly,” she said.
“They did ask that there be one march,” said Philip Lipson, co-director for Capitol Hill Pride.
Hansen said she didn’t receive an invite to two prior Capitol Hill Pride meetings where the topic of not holding Pride festivities in Capitol Hill on June 24 was discussed. LeFevre wants community organizations and businesses, such as the Seattle Dyke March, to also push their plans up to June 11.
“I know plenty of folks who I’ve already talked to about staffing on June 24 and would be really surprised that that commitment is shifting,” Hansen said.
Capitol Hill Pride is also planning a pride festival on Saturday, June 10.
“That’s a very important decision that impacts Capitol Hill significantly,” Hansen said.
National Pride March Seattle will rally in Cal Anderson Park at 11 a.m. June 11, which also complicated things for Capitol Hill Pride. LeFevre argued she had requested an application from Seattle Parks and Recreation to reserve the park, after submitting for a special events permit with the city. Orion did the opposite, filing for a park permit before the special events permit. LeFevre said her organization requesting an application to use Cal Anderson Park should have resulted in SPR holding that date for Capitol Hill Pride.
Again, she spoke about InterPride selecting her organization for the solidarity march, not PrideFest.
“We stepped up and we submitted a permit, and we are now, as of March, the official registered organizer stewards of the equality march for unity and pride,” LeFevre said.
Orion said national organizations have nothing to do with what PrideFest and other organizers do in Seattle. Rohan said Capitol Hill Pride is squabbling about routes and keeping marchers on Capitol Hill to satisfy business interests.
“We’re advocating for unity here,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where it starts. It doesn’t matter where it ends. The point here is that we’re actually getting across to the world that we’re united, is that correct?”
LeFevre said she doesn’t believe city officials have been as involved as they should be in discussions about the solidarity march in Seattle, which she believes could be the city’s largest. The Women’s March currently holds the title.
She also said PrideFest refused to engage in conversations with Capitol Hill Pride leading up to decision-making about the June 11 solidarity march.
“We wanted an in-person meeting with you,” she told Orion. “You would apparently only agree to a conference call meeting, which I think is ridiculous because we live in the same city here. We have been available for the last 10 years.”
LeFevre said her organization has every right to oppose a second march that leads downtown, and that Orion had refused to communicate with Capitol Hill Pride. Lipson added PrideFest has had no communication with InterPride about its Seattle Pride March.
“This is a local event run by local people,” Orion said. “InterPride and the national march have nothing to do, besides being the inspiration for the sister march that happens here in Seattle, so I know you keep going back to this like you have some official title.”
LeFevre again said InterPride would prefer each city only hold one sister march, and Orion agreed that would be his preference.
She said she would also like for the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to get involved in the conversation.
“I think it’s a surprise that June 10 is now being talked about,” Hansen said. “… It’s not just new. It’s surprising and it’s concerning to folks that are probably already planning shopping for that weekend.”
Hansen said she would participate in discussions about anything that would benefit the neighborhood, but her first year as chamber director working with the Capitol Hill Pride Festival organization wasn’t positive.
“I think this whole navel-gazing approach to where the march should go is a little stupid,” Hansen said, “because I have no problem with it spending a lot of time on Capitol Hill and then heading downtown and hooking up to the Seattle Center. I think the capacity is a lot bigger.”
LeFevre said Capitol Hill Pride wants to add the Pike/Pine corridor into its plans, that Capitol Hill can handle the 50,000 attendees she predicts, and she doesn’t think marchers should impose on downtown businesses on a Sunday.
“Shut down the world for Sunday, for three hours? Yes, girl, absolutely,” Rohan said. “That is kind of the point of this, is it not? Have you forgotten what the point of this is? … Let’s shut down the world for three hours and say, ‘We’re all equals. Let’s talk about it.’”
Orion said he would like more communication from city officials, such as special events manager Chris Swenson, and for them to be more responsive, “because I think that will help facilitate what is going on here.”
The unity marches on June 11 do not preclude regularly scheduled events during that month, such as Clean Sweep, which PrideFest does with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Queer Art Walk, Pride Film Fest or the Seattle Pride Parade, which is organized by Seattle Pride.
Pride Fest still plans to have its Capitol Hill festival in Capitol Hill on June 24, which had previously been called Capitol Hill Pride. LeFevre told Orion she’d asked them the past two years to stop using that name. During the Tuesday meeting LeFevre presented state documentation verifying she had recently trademarked Capitol Hill Pride.