A few dozen activists gathered on Ohio University’s college green Saturday afternoon to rally in celebration of LGBTQ pride and to draw further attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The event, hosted by the Southeastern Ohio Rainbow Alliance, happened just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that members of the LGBTQ community are no longer able to be discriminated against in the workplace based on their sexual or gender identities. Though there was little mention among the crowd of their movement’s recently achieved civil rights victory.
The rally began on OU’s campus at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, where the crowd participated in a number of chants and heard from a handful of speakers who shared their intersectional life experiences in heartfelt addresses. Rally attendees sported personal protection equipment throughout the event.
They later migrated to the Athens County Municipal Court for further rallying.
Among the speakers was recent OU graduate Tiffany Anderson, who shared with the crowd Anderson’s origin story as a Cleveland native, where there were few resources for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population, and sexual and gender identities were not discussed among the community.
“For me, being able to be in spaces like this, gatherings like this, is something that I’m really grateful for because up until, I wanna say college, I didn’t get a chance to do that,” Anderson said.
Anderson voiced support for defunding the police — a popular rallying cry in the wake of worldwide social and political unrest brought about by the recent killings of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
The assertion was met with much applause from the crowd. Some municipalities across the country are either disbanding police forces or reallocating departments’ funding.
Democratic Athens City Councilwoman Beth Clodfelter said in a recent interview with The Athens NEWS that the body has no plans to defund or disband the Athens Police Department because it’s already allocating funding toward recourses like implicit bias training and a mental health professional.
Ellie Hamrick, a former Independent, self-described socialist candidate for city council, advocated for residents to put additional pressure on local officials to reform law enforcement following a 2019 excessive force-related policing controversy in the city.
A central theme of Hamrick’s 2019 city council campaign was to abolish APD.
Seir Welser, a rising sophomore at Athens High School also spoke at the rally. Welser recounted the first time he revealed his identity as a boy was to a stranger at another pride rally on college green two years ago. That stranger, he said, accepted his proclamation as transgender with open arms.
“I have not seen them since. I had not talked to them before, but I experienced so much love in that moment,” Welser said. “In that moment, I experienced more love than I had felt from half of the students at my school at the time. I experienced more love than I had ever felt for myself before.”