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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Pridefest Asks City to Drop Charges Against Protesters at Its Event

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 6:27 AM

click to enlarge SARA BANNOURA
Pride St. Louis has a simple plea for the prosecutors seeking to press charges against the people who protested last year's Pridefest event: Don't.

In a letter posted to the organization's Facebook page Tuesday evening, the board of the nonprofit behind St. Louis' annual Pride event said it did not support the city's efforts to prosecute two activists.

"Our organization strongly supports the right to free speech and the importance of protesting in advocating important issues — including those who protest our event or organization," the letter read. "In the strongest terms possible, Pride St. Louis urges the city of St. Louis to drop any existing charges against these individuals, as we do not believe our event was disrupted or our peace disturbed, beyond the lawful and peaceful assembly of protesters.

"We furthermore ask that the city not pursue any further charges against these individuals on behalf of our organization."

The letter was sent to City Counselor Julian Bush, a mayoral appointee who serves as the chief prosecutor on municipal cases.

According to a Facebook post by a man who identified himself as one of those arrested, the two activists had been protesting the presence of a Monsanto booth at what they saw as a "corporatized Pride." The man said they were facing charges of resisting arrest and trespassing.

Tensions between Pridefest and its allies have been a long-simmering issue in the LGBTQ community, with some activists even splitting off to form a separate event in Tower Grove Park after the original Pride moved downtown in 2012. (Our sister publication, Out in St. Louis, reported at length on those tensions last fall.) But when it comes to whether the activists should be charged, agreement appears to be complete.

"The history of the Pride Movement, in fact, has its origins in protests; the Stonewall Riots are widely hailed as the catalyst for the modern-day LGBTQIA+ rights movement," the Pride St. Louis board reminded Bush in its letter.

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