The Seattle Pride parade attracts over 100,000 people every year. While originally a celebration commemorating the radical origins of the LGBT liberation movement and the 1969 Stonewall uprising, Pride in recent years has become a rather tame, almost non-political event dominated by corporate interests.
But, this year was different because of the participation of a vibrant socialist election campaign, which won 20,000 votes for socialism in 2012 and is confidently challenging corporate politics again in 2013. The trailblazing Kshama Sawant campaign for Seattle City Council proudly marched in Pride with a diverse contingent of 65 supporters – including 4 people who spontaneously joined us from the sidewalk! We were colorful. We were loud. And we kicked butt.
Rather than paying lip service to issues important to LGBT people – including economic issues like low pay! – the Kshama Sawant campaign used the opportunity to reach thousands of people with our message of radically shaking up politics as usual and truly fighting for the far-reaching change that LGBT people and others need.
We carried two big banners. After the recent victories for marriage equality, one pointed toward the need to support the emerging struggle of transgender people: “Ding Dong DOMA’s Dead! ONWARD TO TRANS EQUALITY – Vote for Kshama Sawant.” The other banner boldly demanded a $15 an hour minimum wage. Nearly everyone on the contingent wore red campaign t-shirts which also called for a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Kshama spoke to crowds along the parade route, many who had never heard about the campaign. “We’re fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage,” explained Kshama from the bed of a pick-up truck decorated with campaign signs, balloons, streamers, and blaring music all along the route. “Let’s make this city affordable for all!”
The demand for a higher minimum wage clearly resonated with many. People cheered our demand and joined in with our chant: “Raise the minimum wage!” At one point, two Macy’s workers ran over to Kshama and asked for the microphone to echo the chant! One woman even jumped into the street with us to take hundreds of our leaflets and hand them out along the parade route. Many people in the crowd showed they were already supportive of the campaign by shouting “Yea Kshama!” or holding up a fist.
We also chanted: “Show your pride! Show your pride! The fight for equality is still alive!” But, by far, our demands challenging Seattle’s exorbitant cost of living struck the strongest chord and helped the campaign stand out from the other corporate politicians whose campaigns did not call for any meangingful change. A favorite chant of our contingent was: “Rent control! Rent Control! Make Seattle Affordable!”
Over 5,000 leaflets were handed out, and thousands of more people more were introduced to our campaign for the first time. We signed up dozens of new supporters and volunteers and raised over $1000 in donations, providing more evidence of a rapidly changing political situation that is opening up historic opportunities for socialists and independent working-class politics.
The Seattle primary election voting place takes place between July 18 and August 6. We are going all-out knocking on thousands of doors to fight for a spot in the November general election. With over a hundred volunteers signed up, we have a tremendous opportunity to bring our socialist message to tens of thousands of people in Seattle and help demonstrate that, if more ordinary people and organizations get involved, we can build a real alternative to the two parties of corporate America.
Photos by Revel Smith and Vince Hosea