By Nico Lang
When Monica Cannon-Grant first heard there would be an event on August 31 purportedly celebrating the “diverse history, culture, and identity” of straight people, she thought it had to be a joke. As a straight, married woman raising a young son, she says the heterosexual community doesn’t need any more visibility.
“Everything in life is catered toward straight folks,” she tells MTV News. “All 365 days of the year are our damn parade.”
Cannon-Grant is one of the organizers of Fight Supremacy: Hands Off Our Pride, a counterprotest planned the same day as Boston’s so-called “Straight Pride Parade,” which has been in the works for weeks. On June 27, a group calling itself Super Happy Fun America announced it had received a permit from the Boston mayor’s office to walk the same route as the city’s LGBTQ+ Pride Parade, but with a different message: to advocate for the inclusion of an “S” in the LGBTQ+ acronym, as well as the installation of a “Straight Pride” flag at Boston City Hall, according to the organization’s website.
While Boston Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted that he personally disagrees with the intent of the parade, the municipal government “cannot deny a permit based on an organization’s values.”
Organizers with Super Happy Fun America claim the streets will be closed off to accommodate “vehicles” and “floats.” “Alt-right” figure and conservative troll Milo Yiannopolous will serve as the parade’s grand marshall. While Yiannopolous is gay, he says in a statement he has “spent [his] entire career advocating for the rights of America’s most brutally repressed identity — heterosexuals.”
While the parade is not formally an “alt-right” event, many of the organizers behind it have been extremely active in what’s sometimes known as Boston’s “alt-lite” movement. The connections did not surprise counter-protestors in the least.
Mark Sahady, one of the three lead organizers of the “Straight Pride” Parade, has ties to white supremacist and extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Massachusetts Patriot Front, and is a member of Resist Marxism, which defines its mission as to “defend the Constitution against violent extremists and the Regressive Left.” The rhetoric of Resist Marxism members is “steeped in same sort of racist, anti-Semitic rhetoric as groups on the far-right fringes,” according to the progressive news site ThinkProgress. Co-organizer John Hugo was endorsed by Resist Marxism during his failed 2018 Congressional run. ThinkProgress reports Chris Bartley, the third organizer behind “Straight Pride,” has referred to opponents of white supremacist groups as “the true fascists.”
“We’ve dealt with these people before,” Peter Berard, a member of the Boston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America who also plans to counter-rally next month, tells MTV News. “We know how they think. It was definitely groan-inducing in what a self-parody it seems to be, but a lot of people on the far-right like to complain that the left has a culture of victimhood while indulging in it themselves. They like to act oppressed.”
Berard adds that groups like Resist Marxism like to “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. This one stuck.”
The city of Boston itself is no stranger to fringe events like Straight Pride, but activists also know how to drown their ideologies out. In August 2017, a few dozen people affiliated with the Boston Free Speech Coalition and other right-wing groups gathered for a “free speech” rally in Boston Commons before they engulfed by a sea of counter-protesters. The sea of resistance was disruptive enough that the event was forced to end an hour early.
A lead organizer of the counter-protest, Cannon-Grant was inspired by friends who were “on the front lines” during the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally the same month, in which Heather Heyer was tragically killed after a car plowed through a crowd of activists. After Cannon-Grant received a flier in the mail that “alt-lite” organizers would be holding an event on Boston Commons, she created an event for the counterprotest on Facebook. “In four days, we put together a march for 45,000 people and we raised $65,000 to be able to help activists,” she says.
The turnout was massive enough that organizers behind the “free speech” rally subsequently canceled “over 50 of their planned events,” according to Cannon-Grant.
Counter-protesters hope to recapture the enthusiasm of previous protests when they take on the Straight Pride Parade with bullhorns and picket signs on August 31. Fight Supremacy: Hands Off Our Pride, which Cannon-Grant is helping to organize, will commence at Boston City Hall Plaza around 9 a.m. and lasts until noon. Black Lives Matter Cambridge and Violence In Boston, Inc. are partners of the event. Cannon-Grant says the rally will place an emphasis on “uplifting” the community with a lineup of speakers that includes activists, organizers, and young people.
While Hands Off Our Pride will be led by members of the LGBTQ+ community, Cannon-Grant believes heterosexual people have a responsibility to fight back against hate. As a straight woman, she lives by a quote often invoked by activists: “I don’t need allies. I need accomplices.”
“I’m trying to be an accomplice,” Cannon-Grant says. “We fight supremacy through using our voice and giving people a platform to be able to speak.”
Berard’s event will focus on less on speeches and more on disruption. Called Straight Pride is Hate Pride, he says attendees will convene at Government Center at 11 a.m. The goal is to “make a lot of noise and essentially make it so that their rally is as unsuccessful as possible in a nonviolent way.” The event is a project of Solidarity Against Hate-Boston, which calls itself a “coalition of community groups and individuals… mobilizing against fascist organizing.”
A third event, the Straight Pride Street Theater Counter Protest, aims to lampoon the Straight Pride organizers by making signs that mock their claims of oppression. Potential sign ideas include “No Straight People Have Died This Year From a Hate Crime.” According to organizer Maureo Fernández y Mora, the idea was inspired by activists who took on dictatorships through humor.
Fernández y Mora hopes to simultaneously show that Straight Pride’s talking points are “really, really silly” and that the group’s claims of oppression simply aren’t true. While police classified 148 hate crimes on the basis of a victim’s heterosexual identity in 2016, none of those crimes were legitimately anti-heterosexual. According to a ProPublica investigation, about half were actually miscategorized anti-LGBTQ+ crimes, seven reflected other types of bias, and 18 weren’t hate crimes at all.
MTV News reached out to Super Happy Fun America to respond to the bevy of counterprotests against its event. Representatives did not respond before publication time, but on its website, the group claims that negative reaction to the Straight Pride Parade is “disparaging our young civil rights movement.”
“The parade will be a seminal moment in the history of civil rights in America,” it claims, promising a “festive occasion” that will “educate the public on the unique problems facing our community.”
While the Straight Pride Parade is still seven weeks away, the “festive occasion” could end up being a very small one. The only Facebook page that has been created for the parade boasts just 13 people who say they plan on going to the event. Twenty-three people say they are “interested.” In contrast, more than 800 individuals have indicated that they will be attending Hands Off Our Pride on Facebook and over 3,300 say they are “interested” in going.
Cannon-Grant hopes to see a repeat of August 2017, when the forces of love drowned out hate.
“I hope that we outnumber them and we become the story,” she says. “I hope our event overpowers any amount of hatred that parade will attract. We did it before. I’m hopeful to do that again.”