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Guest Article

Community, Guest Article, Queer Pride, Ritual

June 2, 2023

[MIRROR] Queer Armed Joy: Report Back From Vancouver’s ‘Big Gay Wedding’

Originally posted by Sabot Media and IGD News

Dozens of local queers in Southwest Washington State celebrated the unofficial start of summer this year with a ‘Big Gay Wedding’, gathering from morning till afternoon on a warm holiday weekend — right outside of a Christian Nationalist hate church that preaches LGBTQ eradication.

Directed and cheered on by Christian conservatives, Republican-captured governments in states like Florida and Texas and around the world continue to race each other passing new legislation restricting queer people’s lives, and specifically those performing gender nonconformity such as drag queens and trans people.

But on Sunday, May 28, about 100 Vancouver and regional residents acted in solidarity to protest the local bigotry of the “King James Conference” that Washington’s Sure Foundation Baptist Church had been putting on since May 25. The church’s leader, Christian Nationalist hate-preacher Aaron Thompson, led the conference that included many speakers from The New Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement (New IFB). The New IFB’s members included prominent figures like Aaron Thompson, who has openly advocated for the genocide of Queer folk and has spread of antisemitic conspiracy theories as a central aspect of their doctrine, as well as engaged in Holocaust denial, veneration mass shooters, and called for the beating of children.

Thompson received Internet virality last November as a video of one of his sermons praising the Club Q mass shooter gained widespread attention. In the video, the reverend referred to the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting by a neo-Nazi that left five people dead and 17 injured as “a good thing” and stated that quote “I really don’t care that those people got killed. And you’re like, ‘That sounds really hateful, pastor.’ Well, it is hateful. Because I do hate them.”

A Big Gay Celebration

Isiah Esquire (splits) and Johnny Nuriel (standing)

With the Sure Foundation bringing in outside agitators from around the country for their multi-day Christian Nationalist conference, locals organized a “Big Gay Wedding” to counter the fourth and final day of the hate event. Portland’s local indigenous community, the Native Youth and Elders Council, and folks at the Portland State Universities Native Center took part in writing a land acknowledgement for Ri0t Dad to deliver to start off the day’s protest. Originally written for Multnomah County, the acknowledgement was adapted to to the tribes associated to the Vancouver side of the Columbia River for the event.

So while the Christian cult spewed all their genocidal rhetoric at their congregation and their hostage children inside a repurposed bank building, locals celebrated queer life in public space under the sun with four marriages and marriage re-commitment ceremonies, musical performances, 2 Indigenous 2 Spirit Poets Ei & Simona Bearcub, and drag show performances by “Izonny, the Goliaths of Glam”: Isiah Esquire and Johnny Nuriel, who also officiated the day’s weddings and ceremonies. Local pastors of inclusive churches including Christian congregations came out to support the queer community and speak against the genocidal rhetoric of the Sure Foundation Baptist Church. Vancouver City Councilmember Kim D. Harless also spoke at the event.

Indigenous punk rock artist Gabe from the band “1876” was one of the musical performers and explained that they were there because they wanted to use their voice to speak out against hate and protect what’s sacred because LGBTQ people have always been party of their community.

“I haven’t forgotten where I come from despite Christians trying to take that knowledge from me,” Gabe said. “I still know who they are in our communities, and I think it is important for everyone to protect each other but especially those who have the voice to do it to protect what’s sacred.”

Cops Protect Property; We Protect Us

Surveillance video of some armed Queer Security taken by the church

In the face of rising Christo-fascist violence in the United States, organizers said they wanted to maintain a protest environment that was appropriate for all members of the community, which means keeping everyone safe. They provided free water and snacks for participants, organized a “buddy system” when coming and going from the main protest area for safety-in-numbers against potential ambush harassment or attacks, redirected incoming supporters to alternative parking.

Indeed, the church, parking lot owner, and towing company Chappelle’s worked together to keep a truck sitting in the parking lot waiting for protestors to leave the cars unattended and take them away at the owners’ expense.

The wedding organizers maintained free and clear access to the entrance to the roadway while offering assistance to those pulling out who couldn’t see past the crowd, meaning as a result of their efforts, no vehicles were towed and no one was struck by a vehicle. Even so, the event organized and directed medics to be on scene equipped with individual first aid kits and trauma kits as well as a trauma unit vehicle, as well as a local community defense group who acted as security, trained for de-escalation but many also visibly armed to make it clear the crowd was not a soft target. Ultimately, there were no disturbances, just like there were no wedding-attendant vehicles actually towed, but that doesn’t mean the caution wasn’t warranted.

Although the Rev. Thompson and his church called police 22 times to complain, police only arrived once early in the morning. An officer asked protestors to go somewhere else because they made it uncomfortable for the church to spread their genocidal rhetoric, but the officer gave up when confronted with the property survey map printed ahead of time showed “public space” extended from the middle of the street to far beyond where the protesters currently were nearest the sidewalk. Police left and did not return. What this means is had armed reactionaries shown up or the ones at the conference open-carrying firearms tried to incite violence and call it self-defense, no state protection would have existed despite making no attempt at intimidation from the state upon the protest.

Being prepared looks like being over-prepared when you do it right, but when you do it right, everyone gets to feel safe and be safe.

In another statement by Ri0t Dad about the event postmortem

For too long Vancouver WA has been seen as a safe place for Right Wing Extremist Ideologies to grow, be nurtured and shared. They have been allowed to gather to intimidate citizens through their words and often through violent action. It’s time Vancouver residents organized to stand up knowing if we do not, then no one will. No one is coming to save us. The ranks of these groups are filled with local politicians, police, first responders and church leaders. We are the ones who need to draw a line and stand firm. It’s time we build community resistance through mutual aid, a general discourse, community support and community defense. It’s time to get involved, South West Washington. Remember; We Keep Us Safe.

How did Guns Make this Event Safe?

Guns are a safety precaution that is needed in the current political environment, as the ramifications of stochastic terrorism are felt harder and harder by marginalized communities the more the need for the knowledge and use of guns to not be limited to right wing toxic male culture becomes more and more apparent. In a perfect world we could and would get rid of guns but nothing we can ever do will ever be able to un invent the gun, the means and conditions will always be with us for the possibility of these weapons to exist. Compound that with the fact that this country is deeply saturated in guns, the majority of these guns have and will continue to fall into the hands of individual oppressors than the oppressed by means of economic accessibility alone unless actively mitigated and stockpiled. Guns should be a community tool of protection, not an individualized symbol of power and this has been how the left has used guns to protect marginalized communities historically from John Browns storm on Harpers Ferry, to the strikers in the Battle of Blair Mountain, to the workers revolutions such as the Ukrainian Black Army, to the community defense of the Black Panthers, where ever leftists have made gains for the working class guns have been there at our defense.

Proper use of firearms can save lives in a live shooter situation, which is more likely in certain scenarios, most notably in events such as drag shows that have become hot targets by reactionaries looking to participate in horrific violence against the Queer community. Having autonomous community defense who are openly carrying high powered weapons is essential for drawing attention from potential threats as hot targets away from the mass and acting as a immediate threat and deterrence against a potential shooter to begin with.

Yet guns, though a integral part of proper safety for an event such as this, in order to make a safe environment for all to enjoy and thrive in we must be trained in every possible avenue to avoid their use through de escalation and conflict resolution like the amazing volunteers who organized security at this event. This allowed for an environment despite the presence of armed security and fascists organizing, everyone involved was able to share in a joyous act of queer resistance with memories to last a lifetime.

What Have We Learned?

The far-Right current Christo-fascist movement is rising and dangerous. They actively support the genocide of whole communities of marginalized people. The people supporting this agenda are in positions of power within religious and political spaces. The people opposing this movement are those within those communities and their accomplices. In order to be an accomplice in this resistance movement you must be willing to listen to the needs of those within these communities and respond to those needs as asked, not through whatever lens you want to interpret those needs. This is the act of solidarity. The act of truly listening and taking what is said at face value without judgement or interpretation. When a community is under threat they may ask for people with the knowledge of firearms to show up and lend their skills and knowledge, both in the direct protection of an event, and in the training of people on how to properly use firearms.

The right wing is well armed, we will never be able to fully protect against this threat without the use of firearms, like it or not. This does not mean that everyone needs to be armed, the goal of the left should not be to copy the individualized prepper model of firearm ownership that focuses on stockpiling an individual cache of weapons for future use. We need to think radically outside this model when it comes to ownership and use of firearms. Yes, they must be owned individually in our legal framework, but we should strive to find ways to use them collectively for the benefit of the community we are in solidarity with. This means those with firearms and the knowledge of their proper use should be willing to show up when called to. We must all be willing to bring our various skill sets to bear against the rising threat of Christo-fascism. From medics to armed security, artists to organizers; everyone was needed to pull of this event.

Yet to properly have a safe action or protest, especially ones built to be in solidarity with the marginalized though explicitly necessary, it is not enough to have weapons and proper knowledge on how to use those weapons to keep an event like this safe. Though no major incidents happened this day (which itself can be attributed to the deterrence of a well armed community defense group that can offer itself as a hot target to draw attention away from the larger crowds) Had a altercation occurred between anyone be it verbal, physical, or potentially lethal altercation these armed volunteers were trained as they should be to employ every measure of de-escalation and conflict resolution possible until the risk of life is so imminent that action need be taken before ever using a weapon which is much more than we can expect out of our own police forces.

Looking away from the grim realities of modern organizing there are other safety precautions we need to be aware of to when organizing. Proper first response medical care is essential. In a lot of emergencies timing is everything and there isn’t always time to wait for an ambulance not to mention the medical bills and other potential problems if police also respond to the call. Having the knowledge to treat a gunshot wound until proper medical attention can be received, knowing how to administer epi-pens or Narcan, or even knowing how to administer CPR can be life saving in even otherwise safe events, and someone inevitably always needs a Band-Aid.

To reiterate from earlier in this report, Being prepared looks like being overprepared when you do it right, but when you do it right, everyone gets to feel safe and be safe.

Learning how to properly be prepared isn’t the only lesson to learn from this wondrously queer act of resistance or even the main lesson to be learned.

This is the main lesson that can be learned from this protest against The New IFB, a network of christofascist churches hellbent on the genocide of those they deem less than. A network of people who want nothing else but to see us suffer, we have no better way to fight them than to do the opposite of that.

Our actions must be filled with only the queerest of love and joy for it shows our enemies that they cannot suppress us, they cannot force us into closets. Yet it does more for us still. The day’s events were filled with happy families and children, lovers, protectors, performers, and people of all kinds who came not just to spend a long day fighting the overt fascism that is being inflicted on our communities, but to have a helluva good time doing it as well, including many moments completely carefree. The yells and cries of slurs and insults were drowned out by music, laughter, dancing, and conversations between lovers, friends, and community members across Vancouver and Southwest Washington.

For we must not just fight fascism; we must overcome it and hold on to the very things they are trying to take from us.

And we must always remember that the revolution is not a event, but a process of our every breath and every day and, yes, the friends we make along the way for “joy can be contagious and dangerous.”

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