by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
How much Pride is too much Pride? The City of Seattle, in particular the Office of Economic Development, recently found itself having to ponder an answer to that question when the organizers of the Capitol Hill Pride Festival requested permits to expand their annual Saturday street fair event on Broadway to Pride Sunday. Going from one day to two, with the second day falling on the same day as downtown's behemoth Seattle Pride Parade (the fourth largest in the nation) and the equally massive Seattle Center event, PrideFest (the largest outdoor free Pride festival in the nation), is literally too much Pride for the city to handle in terms of resources, say officials.
In short, Pride Sunday strains city resources already. So an expansion is out of the question.
'Due to a number of different major events the weekend of June 26th, and factoring in available Seattle Police Department staff resources, it isn't feasible to accommodate a second day for the Capitol Hill Pride Festival this year,' Joe Mirabella, director of communications for the Seattle Office of Economic Development and Office of Film and Music, said in a statement to the Capitol Hill Seattle (CHS) Blog. 'Consequently, Seattle's Special Events Committee declined the Capitol Hill Pride Festival organizers' request to add a second festival day, Sunday, June 26th.'
According to Mirabella, the festival organizers appealed the decision but were recently notified that the denial was upheld.
'The decision to decline the additional day does not affect the historical Saturday Capitol Hill Pride Festival event date, which will occur on Saturday, June 25th,' Mirabella clarified.
The 2016 Seattle Dyke March, which shares Broadway with the festival on Saturday night, will continue as planned, as it is not affected by the street fair's permit issues. Dykes on Bikes is scheduled to lead the march this year.
Organizers Charlotte LeFevre and Philip Lipson, who used to operate the Seattle Museum of Mysteries on Broadway, said that despite the denial of an expansion permit for Sunday, the festival will 'go forward with Sunday,' 'unpermitted or not.'
According to LeFevre, permit applications were submitted to the Seattle Office of Film and Music and the Special Events Committee in February, but she didn't receive the denial of a second day until May 13.
'And to not get any response back for five months and to get something back with less than 45 days left is unfair,' she told Capitol Hill Times.
But LeFevre was told by Seattle's Special Events Committee that she must work with area businesses to secure approval for the second day of the festival, according to the special events committee's chairman, Chris Swenson. They ultimately denied the permit request.
Swenson says the committee also denied Capitol Pride Festival's request to close off Broadway and East Roy Street, citing concerns about access to public transit.
According to officials, 'The proposed additional closure on Broadway Avenue East would eliminate the only suitable location for the temporary re-route of Metro Route 60, which would result in service interruption to Chinatown/ID, Beacon Hill, Georgetown, and South Park.'
According to LeFevre, the Capitol Hill Pride Festival was created when Seattle Pride moved from the neighborhood to downtown. The festival is well attended.
LeFevre said she made her case to the Special Events Committee several years ago that there is an underlying civil rights cause for the festival and that there should be no barriers to people assembling for it, even for more than a day. Although she says many events, such as the Capitol Hill Block Party, are allotted more than a day, LeFevre seems to forget just how big Seattle's Pride Parade is and the fact that city resources are also used at PrideFest, which, if her permits were approved, would happen simultaneously. Also, while people could theoretically attend both the parade and the festival on Broadway, in reality most people would feel as though they would be forced to make a decision as to which one they would attend. The request to expand also asks the bigger question, 'Is it really needed?'
LeFevre says yes.
'You don't have to be marching in a march with your fist in the air,' she said. 'Yes, we have restaurants and booths and vendors, but it's being out in your community, it's being out of the bars, it's being in public.'
That argument is all well and good except for the fact that the Seattle Pride Parade and PrideFest are also out of the bars, in public, and outside. They are also free of any admission charge. Additionally, LeFevre often talks about the Broadway event as a civil rights cause but the reality is it is an outdoor street festival in which organizers charge for booth rentals - not a march for civil rights. There is a big, distinguishable difference between the two. Capitol Hill Pride Festival is a great event and does provide some level of visibility for the LGBTQ community. Seattle Gay News in no way opposes it. However, the use of the LGBTQ equality movement as a reason why the organizers should be allowed to expand the festival is not something that should be taken lightly by the community.
Case in point: if you go to the Capitol Hill Pride Festival website (www.capitolhillpridefestival.info) you will see that organizers are using the slogan 'Stonewall, Never Forget!' But the festival's official 2016 theme is 'Wizard of Oz - Because there is no place like Home! Get your Wicked On! Get ready for two days of fun! Six blocks on Broadway of food, vendors and entertainment!' Again, what does Stonewall have to do with any of that?
Last year, Capitol Hill Pride Festival added a Broadway parade and rally despite the lack of support and an unanswered call by LeFevre to SPD that they add officers to the East Precinct shift that night to help protect people at the festival and during the march and rally. When SPD denied that request, due in part to sending resources to a barbeque event in which SPD was engaging with the public in a positive way, she protested their presence in Cal Anderson Park and demanded that they not be allowed to hold their event during the same time as the Capitol Hill Pride Festival, citing (of all reasons) that Stonewall was a police riot. Seattle Gay News did not take a position on the matter because, again, this is between a festival organizer and a city department. But to once again summon Stonewall as if it has anything to remotely do with a request by festival organizers for more police protection - and then to protest their presence in a public park after their request is denied - is a stretch.
LeFevre received notice Monday that a meeting will be set with Swenson to discuss if there is any way to make the Capitol Hill Pride Festival extension feasible. She told Capitol Hill Times that if they don't reach an agreement about extending the festival, there is talk of a sit-in on Saturday night, adding organizers will not pull barricades from the street as long as people are still there, arguing they have a responsibility to ensure participants' safety.
LeFevre said she feels city departments are 'playing favorites' with Seattle Pride, which used to hold its annual parade in Capitol Hill. Again, that just doesn't add up. The Pride Parade is 10 times the size of her event and takes up many more resources - and, in fact, there are many other outdoor, free, Pride events held on Capitol Hill that give the LGBTQ community visibility and that are all inclusive. These include:
Volunteer Park Pride Festival
June 11, noon - 7 p.m.
Trans Pride Seattle
Cal Anderson Park
June 24, 5 p.m.
Capitol Hill Pride
Capitol Hill Light Rail Station Lot & Denny Way
June 25, noon - 9 p.m.
Capitol Hill Family Pride
Cal Anderson Park
June 25, 1 - 4 p.m.
Queer Youth Pride
Cal Anderson Park
June 25, 4 - 7 p.m.
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