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Home > Opinion > Stonewall was a riot, riot is rebellion (opinion)

Stonewall was a riot, riot is rebellion (opinion)

By ThisIsReno

Submitted by Nathaniel Phillipps

Pride Month is celebrated annually in June and venerated in memory of the so-called riots of 1969 outside of the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village. A queer Black woman decided she’d had enough and punched a cop in the face after being struck by his baton during a police raid — another raid, after raid, after raid.

Three years earlier the trans community in San Francisco rioted after years of concentrated police terrorism in the Tenderloin district — a neighborhood the City had abandoned, in a conflagration ignited by legally-sanctioned, routinized violence and economic depravity.

Nobody would ever denounce — without facing the shadiest of clapbacks — these epochal moments of civil resistance and civil rights that have propelled LGBTQ people realms away from where we once were: just as disposable as George Floyd under the heel of racist-in-blue who went to sleep that night earning a paycheck the same day he murdered a man in front of the world.

Many of us—queer and trans people of color (QTPOC)—are still in fact just, as, vulnerable.

A protest sign that reads "Love" at the Black Lives Matter peace vigil on June 7, 2020.
Image: Trevor Bexon

But most of us don’t look like the “LGBT” people in your life, on your screens, or whomever the annual, empty proclamations of exhortations about LGBTQ equality and inclusion are intended for. Because if they were it wouldn’t have taken the same global outcrying of justice for Floyd for the mainstream queer-equality movement and cadre of national queer organizations to finally — unequivocally — center racial justice, racism (specifically anti-Black racism), and the abolition of white supremacy as a movement in the United States necessary to achieve equality for LGBTQ people.

Some people call these demands and others that go beyond marriage equality and the assimilation of queer people into mainstream society as “full, lived equality.” I call it the same basic demands my ancestors (queer and not) groveled for under the heel of their enslaver. America can’t get either right.

And neither can our city.

On the night of and immediately following historic protests across the nation and here on the Truckee, at the behest of the Reno Police Department, Mayor Hillary Schieve announced an unprecedented and legally spurious curfew. The amount of consternation, anxiety, and fear it caused was clear in the public testimony at Tuesday’s city council meeting, where dozens of residents, resolute, condemned the decisions of the council, Mayor Schieve, and acting-city manager Jason Soto (having temporarily vacated his role as police chief).

I will spare us all the drivel of excuses that rained from our officials in a condescending torrent of ignorance. Black people, other people of color, and queer people often must go to extraordinary lengths to explain, inform, educate, enlighten, shine a light on, and all the other ridiculous pretense and preface required for merely expressing one’s dignity and autonomy to live as a full being.

But I will be resolute here, too — to the City of Reno, City of Sparks, Washoe County, City of Sparks, Reno PD, Sparks PD, Washoe County Sheriff, and Governor Sisolak: the Nevada National Guard and SWAT being sent to the streets, our streets, to enforce a bogus and dangerous curfew and repress the possibility for peaceful protest perpetuates anti-democratic governance and represents an assault on sacred rights.

Governor Sisolak declaring a state of emergency providing cover for the above and the very next morning joining the mayor and Reno PD crying tears for broken windows and a missing flagpole but never for slain Black bodies is participating in a pervasive culture of anti-Blackness that rips apart whatever fleeting myth of a “social contract” remained in the state. Our city council, to be fair, demonstrated zero aptitude for ameliorating that culture here in our city in the immediate or longer-term aftermath of our devastating national turmoil and ravages of racist injustices. 

Image: Ty O’Neil

Nobody in power dared say anything against the utter falsehood that the individuals who engaged in vandalism of city and private property were to “go home” because they are not welcome in Nevada. Newsflash everyone: Nevada is full of disgruntled, dissatisfied Nevadans who are sick and tired of being sick and tired of their government to respond to their basic needs and rights — well before any COVID-19 came around.

And since the local and national reawakening of late May, the law and its deputies have been used to harass and criminalize people for no other purposes than racial profiling and “revenge justice.” Innocent (Black) people have been harassed and arrested in Reno, compelled to plead guilty, demonized by prosecutors, and denied due process by judges. These machinations of the state are sadly, again, nothing new.

In an example of effectual, meaningful reflection, under the leadership of its first Black president, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights organization in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a striking statement on the national unrest as June begins LGBTQ Pride season around the world, reflecting on how “Pride Month reminds us of our roots in struggle. We honor the uprisings against police brutality at Stonewall and elsewhere… and we celebrate the fact that today many more of us may live as our true selves in the open.” 

Locally, the City of Reno was recognized for its perfect score on HRC’s “Municipal Equality Index” by the City’s own Human Rights Commission — that commission has been mostly defunct or inconsequential since. Simultaneously, the Reno police force specifically kills Black men at a rate of more than double the overall national murder average. 

HRC is an organization with its own sordid history of criticisms of discrimination — from the way staff of color are treated, to the issues and movements it supports or neglects. Justice for George Floyd requires them to be honest about who they are and what they represent. The NFL, stunningly, has recently apologized for being “wrong” to not listen to the athlete’s national protests spearheaded by Colin Kaepernick, reversing their years-long obstinacy on the issue, though not their blacklisting of the beloved UNR-graduate and world-famous footballer.

The City of Reno and all of its residents can join the rest of the country and follow the chorus of examples of people, institutions, culture(s), and systems that no longer serve us and specifically Black individuals and Black communities. Black communities will be “at the table” and at our own table fully engaged in that long, immediate, and difficult process and expect everyone to meet everyone there.

Nathaniel Phillipps

Nathaniel is a homegrown organizer from the historic Twin Lakes neighborhood in a most rebellious of places: Las Vegas, Nev. A Reno resident and former local community organizer, Nathaniel performed at the recent Peace Vigil organized by Black Lives Matter Reno-Sparks and was a leader of the #BLM Reno-Sparks demonstration in the summer of 2016. Find Nathaniel online at medium.com/@nathanielphillipps
and Twitter @WokeBloke2
.

Submitted opinions do not represent the views of ThisisReno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

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