Over 200,000 people are expected to flood into the nation’s capitol for this weekend’s pride activities according to organizers and the national Equality March for Unity and Pride could swell those numbers considerably.
Capital Pride’s official activities, like Saturday’s 1.5 mile parade and Sunday’s festival, will be joined with a protest march on Sunday morning that was organized online. Thousands of LGBT people and allies are also expected to march in solidarity in cities around the nation.
While the protest march organizers admit they have no idea how many people to expect on Sunday morning, a similar protest march held in 2009 drew approximately 200,000 people in early October. Many local activists and LGBT organization staffers have privately complained that the 2009 march was better organized and they’ve been left without a clue of how many people to expect.
Most national LGBT organizations have reluctantly endorsed the march now, but most have done little to nothing to support it other than an email or two to their members and reserving a spot to march while carrying signs promoting their organization. Organizational leaders have complained that the march is a waste of money and resources, is poorly organized, and admit they will treat it like a pride parade minus the floats.
“What will it accomplish?” asked one organizational leader who asked to remain anonymous. “They have no plan for after the march. What are they asking for? What will they do with the excitement they could build? What will they do if it fizzles? They just don’t know.”
Similar complaints and worries surfaced in 2009 before the last protest march held in DC. The national organizations came on board earlier, but did little to support the event other than take photos of themselves marching for use in fundraising emails and making self-congratulatory statements to press.
One worry that did come true after the 2009 march was that organizers would squander the opportunity to build a larger grassroots movement of LGBT people willing to agitate for change. The ad-hoc organizing group fell apart, was replaced by a new organization that eventually collapsed itself. Within a year the excitement had dissipated and contact information for attendees (a critical part of movement organizing) was lost.