This post has been updated.
Update: Chicagoist interviewed one of the women who was told to leave the Dyke March rally.
A day before the city's massive annual Pride Parade, the 21st Annual Dyke March drew over a thousand people to its first march and rally in Little Village this year, bringing with it plenty of rainbow flags and slogans supporting trans people and people of color. However, in the wake of the march the Chicago Dyke March Collective has faced accusations of anti-semitism over a controversial decision to ask some Jewish people to leave the rally. An updated response from a Dyke March organizer is below.
The annual Saturday march is often celebrated for feeling less corporate and more racially inclusive than the annual Pride Parade, and marchers chanted "We Are Dyke March" in Spanish and English as they made their way from the corner of Lawndale Avenue and 26th Street to Piotrowski Park. Some of our favorite signs we spotted between the parade route and the park proclaimed, "Gender is fake, do what you want" and "Sanctuary for all, no exceptions."
Still, there were some contentious moments in this year's march: a small cadre of Christian extremist protesters gathered at the park's edge, where they chanted homophobic rhetoric until a marching band from Dyke March marched around them and drowned them out. According to the Windy City Times, three Dyke March participants were asked to leave by organizers because they were carrying Jewish Pride flags—a move that confused and angered some, but was lauded by others who thought the flags represented an anti-Palestinian point of view. The Windy City Times has a full story on the decision, but here's one excerpt:
According to one of those individuals—A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurel Grauer—she and her friends were approached a number of times in the park because they were holding the flag.
"It was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer, Jewish identity which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag," she told Windy City Times.
She added that she lost count of the number of people who harassed her.
One Dyke March collective member asked by Windy City Times for a response, said the women were told to leave because the flags "made people feel unsafe," that the march was "anti-Zionist" and "pro-Palestinian."
"They were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive," Grauer said. "Prior to this [march] I had never been harassed or asked to leave and I had always carried the flag with me."
Update: Iliana Figueroa, a Dyke March Collective member, spoke to Chicagoist Sunday afternoon about the mounting criticisms on social media that Dyke March is facing in the wake of the march for the decision to ask the three people to leave. She says the Dyke March Collective is not anti-Semitic, and the decision reflected the members' desire to support pro-Palestinian participants who believed the flags symbolized Zionism.
"Yesterday during the rally we saw three individuals carrying Israeli flags super imposed on rainbow flags. Some folks say they are Jewish Pride flags. But as a Collective we are very much pro-Palestine, and when we see these flags we know a lot of folks who are under attack by Israel see the visuals of the flag as a threat, so we don't want anything in the [Dyke March] space that can inadvertently or advertently express Zionism," she said. "So we asked the folks to please leave. We told them people in the space were feeling threatened."
Figueroa also said she gave the people her cell phone number and offered to discuss the decision with them more later. She added that they didn't leave immediately, but stayed at the Dyke March rally for "a few hours."
Figueroa added that the collective will release a statement on the incident after it finishes crafting one, and that members have asked pro-Palestinian organizations and others to release statements of solidarity with Dyke March as well. In the meantime, the collective is facing accusations of anti-semitism on social media.
Chicagoist is working to contact the people who were asked to leave, and will update this post if we hear back.
Updated 10:15 p.m.: The full statement from the Dyke March Collective on incident:
"Yesterday, June 24, Chicago Dyke March was held in the La Villita neighborhood to express support for undocumented, refugee, and immigrant communities under threat of deportation. Sadly, our celebration of dyke, queer, and trans solidarity was partially overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally. This decision was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Chicago Dyke March Collective members. We have since learned that at least one of these individuals is a regional director for A Wider Bridge, an organization with connections to the Israeli state and right-wing pro-Israel interest groups. A Wider Bridge has been protested for provocative actions at other LGBTQ events and has been condemned by numerous organizations (tarabnyc.org/cancelpinkwashing/&; for using Israel's supposed "LGBTQ tolerance" to pinkwash the violent occupation of Palestine.
"The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not anti-Semitic, we are anti-Zionist. The Chicago Dyke March Collective supports the liberation of Palestine and all oppressed people everywhere.
"From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go!!
"[Edited to add: We want to make clear that anti-Zionist Jewish volunteers and supporters are welcome at Dyke March and were involved in conversations with the individuals who were asked to leave. We are planning to make a longer statement in the future.]"
The Israeli LGBTQ organization A Wider Bridge released a statement Sunday on the incident, saying "LGBTQ Jews [were] dismissed from Chicago Dyke March." The statement calls for a public apology from the Chicago Dyke March Collective and invites leaders to meet with A Wider Bridge members "to have a constructive dialogue about how anti-Semitism and calls for the disappearance of the Jewish State are creating an unsafe environment for LGBTQ Jews and allies.". Here's the full statement:
We are deeply disturbed by the exclusion of A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurie Grauer and her friends from the Chicago Dyke March, an annual event attended by 1,500 queer women and allies in Chicago. Laurie was proud to carry a rainbow Jewish flag in the march, as has been tradition for her and her friends for a decade.
Organizers of the march identified the flag, confronted Laurie and her friends, and informed them the flag was “triggering marchers,” and demanded they fold up the flag and promptly leave the March, as the event was an “anti-Zionist, pro-Palestine event.”
The Chicago Dyke March’s Mission statement includes the following:
“[The Dyke March] is an anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots effort with a goal to bridge together communities across race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, age, size, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, culture, immigrant status, spirituality, and ability.”
The Dyke March has failed to live up to their goal of “bridging together communities.” That the organizers would choose to dismiss long-time community members for choosing to express their Jewish identity or spirituality runs counter to the very values the Dyke March claims to uphold, and veers down a dangerous path toward anti-semitism.
At A Wider Bridge, we believe in the intrinsic value of being in conversation, even in cases of disagreement; of sharing, empathy, building relationships, and finding common ground. Automatically dismissing Jews and any LGBTQ person or ally who cares about Israel out of hand only builds walls between members of our diverse community.
We call on the Dyke March to issue a full public apology for dismissing LGBTQ Jews from the March, and affirm the Dyke March hold to their own values as a safe place for all LGBTQ people, including the Jewish Community.
We also invite the leadership of the Dyke March to meet with A Wider Bridge to discuss the events that took place yesterday, and to have a constructive dialogue about how anti-Semitism and calls for the disappearance of the Jewish State are creating an unsafe environment for LGBTQ Jews and allies.
Finally, we call on all of our community partners and allies in the Jewish community and the LGBTQ community who care about the advancement human rights and inclusion to join us in condemning this act of hate.