It’s Pride Month – a time usually filled with parades and celebrations. But after recent unrest in Austin and across the country in response to the police killings of unarmed black people, the LGBTQIA+ community took to the streets for a different reason.
What appeared to be at least a thousand protesters marched through downtown Austin Friday night in a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The event kicked off at 7 p.m. at Austin City Hall with a speech from Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan – the city’s first openly gay man on the council. He expressed his support for the movement and promised to use his influence to affect change in city government.
“It’s my job to get it done,” Flannigan said. “That’s what I signed up for – that’s what I’m committing to you to do.”
LGBTQIA+ activist and drag performer Keelan Moses told the crowd he has been a target of racism and homophobia his entire life.
“I’m still trying to grow out of that every single day, and I have to check myself, and check my self-worth,” Moses said through tears. “Everyday – because that is the system that every black person has to deal with. We have had to play along too long – I’m done being silent.”
Moses and other speakers decried police violence against black people, specifically black trans people. Throughout the protest, many people yelled the name of Tony McDade – a black transgender man who was shot and killed by a Tallahassee police officer in May. Speakers and protesters also called for justice for Iyanna Dior, a black transgender woman from Minnesota who was attacked by a group of men outside a convenience store. Their names were included in chants, alongside those of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
A protester who goes by Panther Lilly was holding a large rainbow flag and waving it on the side of the street as many passing cars honked in support. The Austinite identifies as a queer black man and says he is fighting to live in a world where he can be both without facing prejudice.
“So many queer lives have been lost [but] you don’t see them in the news as much,” Lilly said. “Because [people] don’t care about a person who’s queer and a person of color at the same time.”
After about an hour of speeches, the protesters marched peacefully to the Texas State Capitol. An Austin police escort was required given the size of the crowd, which appeared to be at least a thousand people.
Marchers took to Fourth Street – passing by Austin bars and clubs frequented by the LGBTQIA+ community, their rainbow flags matching those in the crowd.
Once at the Capitol, more speeches were made by black trans people, including model and visual artist Frankie Phoenix – a non-binary, trans woman.
“We have to be stronger than ever before, for them, for their children, for our children, for us,” Phoenix said. “Because all black lives matter – not just the cis ones.”
At one point, protesters were asked to be silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time a Minnesota police officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck. The only sound was the buzz of generator lights behind the Capitol gates. Behind them were dozens of Texas DPS officers patrolling the grounds.
Once the moment of silence was over protesters began chanting again – “hands up, don’t shoot.”