Who should perform, do we have the right permits, how many balloons should we order, and what's the best parade route. Simple questions with simple answers that all Prides must ask and solve. I don't think too many Prides have to ask themselves, "What do you think the KKK will do?"
Organized in the wake of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Harrison Pride Fest was an opportunity for the LGBTQ community and its allies to come together in the city of around 13,000 people.
“Our part of the country has been well known for bigotry and backwardness for so long,” resident Cynn Parton told local news station KFSM. “They’re a whole of us who live here who don’t believe that and we don’t want to be labeled like that anymore.” – fusion.net
Residents of the city, located in Arkansas’ Boone County, have long struggled to get out from under the shadow cast by a number of hate-groups which have settled in the area—most notably, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, whose national director, Thomas Robb reportedly lives nearby, maintaining a Harrison address for business purposes.
“Harrison is a really nice place to live,” Robb told Vice in a 2014 profile of the city. “I suspect that’s because it’s majority white.” In 2013, local ABC affiliate KATV reported that only 34 of the city’s nearly residents are black, according to the 2010 census. In 2014, the KKK sponsored a billboard for White Pride Radio in Harrison. The ad read “It’s not racist to love your people.”
Given the region’s reputation as a mecca for hate-groups, Harrison’s first-ever pride festival—which featured music, face-painting, and even an LGBTQ friendly sermon—took on a particular air of significance, actively demonstrating that love can thrive and be celebrated, even in the Klan’s backyard.
Across the street from the pride event, protesters waved Confederate flags, shouted obscene slogans, and held offensive signs. Organized by the secessionist Arkansas League of the South, the group claimed to be standing “in defense of Christian Marriage,” writing on Facebook that:
We were protesting a LGBTQ “Pride Fest” and their parade of degeneracy and immorality on our city streets. As long as our people are under the boot of Washington D.C., we will continue to see our Christian society eroded and the faith of our fathers attacked.
God Save the South!
To read more on Pride in Harrison, Arkansas, head over to fusion.net.
Bravo to the planners of Harrison's first Gay Pride. I bet those rainbow flags were much more inspirational than any white sheet ever was.