Stonewall Columbus released a statement this week acknowledging its missteps in the aftermath of the 2017 Pride protest. The LGBTQ organization apologized to the Black Pride 4, who were arrested after blocking the Pride parade.
More than two years after four activists were arrested for interrupting Columbus Pride, Stonewall Columbus has issued an apology to the individuals who have become known as the Black Pride 4.
The LGBTQ organization released a Facebook statement this week, pointing out its faults in handling the protest, criticizing the Columbus Division of Police and revealing plans to better serve the LGBTQ+ community.
"In the aftermath of the protests during (the) Pride parade, Stonewall failed to show up in the way that the community expected and in the way that (the Black Pride 4) deserved,” wrote AJ Casey, who replaced Karla Rothan as Stonewall's executive director, following her retirement in 2018. “We apologize to each of these individuals for the harm and trauma they experienced from Stonewall Columbus not being there to support them. ... We unequivocally condemn the police actions and policies that harmed the Black Pride 4 and members of our LGBTQ+ community.”
The apology came two weeks after the group TransOhio severed ties with Stonewall Columbus.
On June 17, 2017, Wriply Bennet, Kendall Denton, Ashley Braxton and Deandre Miles — who later became known as the Black Pride 4 — blocked the parade route in what they said was an effort to raise awareness "about the violence against and erasure of black and brown queer and trans people.” They were arrested and convicted of misdemeanor charges. Police said one of the individuals tried to take an officer's gun, but the protesters disputed the claim and that person pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
After their arrests, the Black Pride 4 asked Stonewall to call for the charges to be dropped and pay their legal fees, among other demands, which the organization refused.
Casey said building tension in the community prompted the apology. Though TransOhio's decision to step away from Stonewall played a role, it wasn't the only factor, she added.
“It became clear to me that the efforts that Stonewall had made in the past had not been effective,” she told the Dispatch. “It was causing an intolerable level of division within the LGBTQ community. ... We are committed to making it right.”
However, members of the Black Pride 4, were not moved by the effort.
“Apology not accepted,” said Denton, 28, of Weinland Park. "(Make) a concerted effort to contact us and negotiate some sort of compensation and a reinvigorated dedication to the LGBT community as a whole.”
Addressing trauma from the event, Denton said he remembers people cheering after he was dragged away by police after being hit by mace. “Stonewall should understand the impact that has on the culture around their organization.”
Bennet, 30, who now lives in Chicago, also was unmoved by the apology.
“Stonewall’s apology (happened) because they are bleeding community support,” she said. “It's not because they have remorse. It's about the community starting to (break) rank.”
TransOhio, which provides myriad services to the transgender community, released a statement on Oct. 21 announcing that it was ceasing partnerships with Stonewall. The group cited Stonewall’s failure to support and protect the most vulnerable within the LGBTQ community, and requested the organization apologize to the Black Pride 4.
“We believe that an apology most certainly is due — however delayed — and that denial of this most basic step to restoration continues Stonewall’s pattern of racist and transphobic behavior,” the TransOhio board of directors stated in the release.
Other LGBTQ organizations, including Mozaic and Kaleidoscope Youth Center, released statements in solidarity with TransOhio.
Bennet said the rallying in the community gave her "some hope," but she questioned the timing.
“All these organization are making big announcements about severing ties with Stonewall and stating that it's because of the Black Pride 4, but why now? I'm confused. Where were you then? Court cases are over. Probation is almost up for a couple of us.”
AS Green, TransOhio's secretary, said the group was trying to be patient with Stonewall.
“We wanted to give (Stonewall) time to see if they'd be able to change,” Green said. “They repeatedly showed over the past year or so that (they) were not going to change."
Green said the group apologizes if some don't think TransOhio acted fast enough.
Now that Stonewall has apologized to the Black Pride 4, and endeavored to "enhance outreach strategy to bring services and resources to under-served communities," TransOhio said it is taking time before considering any reconciliation.
“We're looking forward to seeing if the change that they spoke of ... actually gets applied,” Green said. “We’re just taking it day by day.”