Over one-hundred people demonstrated at the Wisconsin State Capitol Wednesday night in support of Governor Tony Evers decision to fly the LGBTQ+ pride flag over the Capitol earlier this month.
The event was organized in just a matter of days via social media to counter the Wisconsin chapter of the Christian Leaders Coalition’s protest of the flag.
Organizer Haley Archer was not surprised by the early turnout on both sides.
“Madison has a beautiful, incredible, radical, close-knit queer community,” says Archer. “There’s about a hundred people on our side now, I see that two people just showed up with signs that say ‘Shame’ and ‘Flee Sexual Immorality’, so I’m guessing we’re going to outnumber them probably a hundred-to-one.”
Archer also emphasized that the counter-protest was not against Christianity, but rather bigotry as a whole, and that several religious institutions had voiced their support of the demonstration.
Evangelical Lutheran pastor Kristin Rice rebuffed CLC members opposition to the pride flag with an alternate Christian perspective.
“Pride is beautiful, and God is love, and that’s what I love about coming to Pride events,” Rice shares. “There’s so much self-love that it expands out to loving everybody else, and that’s the embodiment of what Christianity is about, and caring for each other and letting everybody be who they really are.”
While the demonstration was organized in part to show support for the LGBTQ+ pride flag, many protesters, including Gideon Elliott, want to see this administration take more concrete steps to improve the lives of queer persons in Wisconsin.
“Every year we hear that the current year has been the deadliest on record for trans people, in particular black trans women in the united states, and we’re on track again to have this year be the deadliest year so far,” he says. “I think that even though this flag isn’t as much of a call to action as I would maybe like to see from the administration, I think it is a start to just say, ‘Hey, we support you in your existence as people.”
Moreover, demonstrator Aaron Lopez sees the specific flag being flown over the State Capitol, which does not include either a black or brown stripe introduced in Philadelphia in 2017, as overlooking a significant portion of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Every time, since I can remember, I have associated the pride flag with white LGBTQ people,” Lopez notes. “That kind of made it hard for me to come out because as a Mexican american impression that queerness was a white thing. So, as I’m here walking round the Capitol and I see the Pride flag with just six colors on it, I look up and see that, yeah, it’s a good looking flag, but I think it’s missing a couple stripes.”
Designers introduced this inclusive, eight-striped flag to highlight queer persons of color and acknowledge their specific concerns, such as not feeling safe when police are present at Pride events in uniform.
WORT Her Turn reporter Holly Schaal spoke with protesters who witnessed a tense moment between Capitol police and demonstrators after one Christian Coalition member encroached on the demonstration space.
“A Christian Coalition protester walked up to one of the LGBT counter protesters and they knelt before them to start praying. A policeman walked over to tell the LGBTQ+ person to walk away and give the Christian Coalition member some space,” Schaal reports. “Eye-witnesses saw the police reaching for their tasers, so thankfully the event organizers thought quickly and organized a sit-in and got everybody to sit down and that deescalated the situation.”
Prior to this interaction, Madison-based punk duo Gender Confetti kept spirits high by playing a pop-up set, including a new song written specifically for the event.
When asked about why Gender Confetti makes an effort to play at protest events, drummer Elyse Clouthier, who also plays in Clean Room, said, “When I see someone that I perceive as being hateful towards people based on their identity, I want to organize an event and be part of an event and energize an event through music that is going to grow more love. Basically, like, grow a garden of love so there’s no room for hate.”
Gender Confetti’s debut album, WE’RE GAY, comes out on July 20th.
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