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The group behind Philadelphia's LGBTQ+ Pride celebration has disbanded and canceled this year's festivities due to a controversy.
Philly Pride Presents had come under much criticism for a June 10 Facebook post about the Stonewall riots that used transphobic terminology and cast police as victims in the 1969 uprising against police harassment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Soon that and other Pride Month posts were taken down, and a week later, the organization posted that the person in charge of social media had resigned and said its officials were "deeply sorry that these posts unintentionally offended and hurt the LGBTQ+ black, brown and trans community."
Just hours later, Philly Pride Presents' entire Facebook page was gone, and so were large portions of its website, according to the Inquirer. By Monday the group's phone line was disconnected, and an Inquirer reporter learned that the organization had dissolved and its Pride festival, scheduled for September instead of June due to pandemic-related restrictions, had been canceled. Officials with Philly Pride Presents, however, have not commented publicly.
The group has been the subject of controversy previously; it's been lambasted as too supportive of police, while its longtime adviser Chuck Volz was a major supporter of Donald Trump.
Now other Philadelphia activists say they'll fill the gap with their own Pride celebrations. Black and Latinx organizers are working on an event and will release more details soon, said Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, cofounder of the Black and Brown Workers Co-operative and an activist against racism within Philly's LGBTQ+ community.
The disbanding of Philly Pride Presents "allows for something new to be born," Muhammad told the Inquirer. "It allows for something resonant with Black and brown queer and trans people in the city, for all LGBTQ folks in the city, to have a space that's truly held by the people in our community." Muhammad's group was influential in the addition of black and brown stripes to the local Pride flag.
Celena Morrison, executive director of Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs, said the city will be supportive of all Pride celebrations. "While this recent development is still unfolding, we understand the community's need for a new vision of what LGBTQ+ Pride looks like here in Philadelphia," Morrison told the paper. "The Office of LGBT Affairs has been in conversation with community leaders and activists as they prepare to reimagine Pride, and we look forward to supporting the many celebrations, rallies, protests, and programming already happening across the city, as the future of Pride in Philadelphia emerges -- one that is reflective of the many diverse experiences of our city's LGBTQ+ communities."
However, local LGBTQ+ activist Kendall Stephens called Philly Pride Presents' action cowardly, with the organizers unwilling to face critics at a protest set for this week. "The disbandment of PPP robbed the QTBIPOC community of an opportunity to be properly honored and represented in Pride Month festivities and disallowed a smooth transition of power and responsibility over Philly pride events to transpire," Stephens said in a written statement to Philadelphia Gay News. "This decision was a craven response to community pressure that dismissed and further harmed the voices of the most vulnerable in our community. Instead of facing the community with the pride that this month represents by addressing the concerns of those in our community who feel underrepresented and underserved in pride events, PPP chose to systematically silence those voices once again in one last act of profound disinterest and unwillingness to transform pride into a more inclusive and equitable space for everyone in our community. I am saddened by this decision and what this may mean for the rest of Pride Month."