MANCHESTER, NH – The planned Pride Parade and festival at Arms Park went off with only one hitch: at 8:35 a.m. on June 18, Manchester police arrived to investigate after a bomb-sniffing dog took notice of a “suspicious” parked vehicle. The state police arrived to assist with their Explosives Ordinance Detection unit in order to prevent or disarm any potential explosives inside or attached to the vehicle.
The van was cleared after about two hours, delaying – but not deterring – revelers from celebrating Pride Month with a parade and day-long festival.
The pride parade wound its way down Commercial Street, with Girl Scouts leading the way and a marching band bringing up the rear. In between, people of all shapes and sizes moved along, waving to spectators. A group from Comcast had brought rainbow-themed company logos. A vehicle full of people, dressed in furry animal costumes, made its way through. Supporters of trans rights and gay rights held up placards and signs.
The atmosphere in the parade was one of celebration, of positivity. Both spectators and paraders cheered at each other, with car horns honking at various points to provoke cheers. The crowd was composed of people of all kinds, many of whom had colorful hair and were decked out in rainbow gear. Others draped various LGBT flags on their backs, as if the flags were superhero capes.
After the parade ended, everyone made their way down to Arms Park at least 45 minutes early, before tables were available, and before most vendors were fully set up. Prior to the event, organizers with Queen City Pride had accepted funding from multinational defense contractor BAE Systems. They are, at the time of writing, the biggest defense contractor in Europe and the 7th-biggest worldwide, and are one of the largest employers in New Hampshire.
In response, the Party for Socialism and Liberation Southern NH issued a prepared statement, which was available in print at the event itself. The statement, in part, reads:
“The Party for Socialism and Liberation Southern NH strongly condemns the presence of weapons manufacturer BAE Systems, as well as representatives from the Republican National Committee at Queen City Pride. The origin of pride was a militant uprising against the political-economic system of capitalism that oppresses LGBTQIA+ people. The community was led by the most oppressed members of the LGBTQIA+ movement, including people of color, people experiencing homelessness, and transgender activists.”
In a since-deleted post, Queen City Pride offered the following rejoinder:
“This year for the first time, we have some corporate sponsors that have raised questions within the community we aim to serve. Queen City Pride stands behind our decisions of what sponsorships to receive and which to decline, including BAE Systems. Although a portion of their business is developing weapons, drones, and intelligent software for non-combat warfare; they are a community partner. They employ more veterans than any other employer in NH, they develop software and hardware to ensure passenger jet travel is safe and efficient, they develop technology to protect our active troops on the ground, they have an inclusive workforce and leadership team, DEI group, and they are bringing several thousand jobs to Manchester. It is with no apology that we thank each and every sponsor that is helping us to promote and celebrate the queer community in NH.”
At press time, Queen City Pride organizers had not responded to queries for further comment.
The controversy, such as it was, did not disrupt the festivities. An independent company set up a pro wrestling ring in which to demonstrate how wrestlers train and to give away a few matches. While it wasn’t especially clear what story lines they wished to present, if any, the wrestlers demonstrated considerable skill, setting themselves apart from amateurs.
Music performances blared at one end at the park while at the other end, greeters handed out skittles for anyone who wished to “taste the rainbow.” Non-profit organizations set up stalls next to comic stores, food vendors, and the Palace Theatre advertising a live production of “The Little Mermaid.”
Colorful wigs and flags of all kinds were in abundance, even while gusts of wind beneath a cloudy gray sky threatened rain. Friends and strangers met, exchanging hugs and friendly conversation. Unlike previous years, police officers observed the goings-on with patient attention. After the recent events in Idaho where the white supremacist Patriot Front group planned a terrorist attack at a Pridefest, few objected to their presence.
Overall, Manchester’s 2022 Pride Fest offered a good time for all, regardless of age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It was a place where, for at least once a year, people could live as freely as they chose, without fearing societal condemnation, ostracism, or other negative consequences from others.
Winter Trabex is a freelance writer from Manchester and regular contributor to Community Voices.
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