Pelton calls Straight Pride Parade ‘a perversion’

Emerson president calls out plans for Boston march

THERE IS QUITE a stir over the Straight Pride Parade, set to grace downtown Boston this weekend. Organized by a group called Super Happy Fun America, the parade will feature controversial alt-righter and former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos as chief marshal.

On the year of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a milestone moment in LGBTQ rights history, many view the parade as the ultimate trolling.

The group will march from Copley Square up Boylston Street past Emerson College — a liberal bastion for LGBTQ students. Lee Pelton, the president of Emerson, isn’t pleased.

“Fear and ignorance, humanity’s most potent cocktail, masquerading as freedom of speech, have been given permission (i.e. given a license) to hold a Straight Pride Parade on August 31st, which, barring the Boston Police determination that doing so would be unsafe, will march by our campus – an affront to the wonderfully pied beauty of our affirming and diverse commonwealth of learning,” Pelton said in a community email.

Pelton didn’t stop there. “The Straight Pride Parade is a perversion,” he wrote. “It is a desecration of beauty, truth, and generosity and that is why we must call it out, call it what is, with a loud, clear, unambiguous and unified voice.”

Emerson is particularly piqued because the parade is happening on move-in day for returning students, leading the college to prohibit guests from entering any college buildings, and locking exterior doors on the day parents will probably want to take a jaunt around campus.

A spokesman for the Straight Pride Parade said that Pelton’s comments, which at one point compared the group to white pride, showed ignorance about “the nature of our movement.” Organizers have claimed for months they’re not mocking the LGBTQ Pride Parade, and that the connections to the alt-right pro-Trump movement are non-existent.

“I might technically be a sequined and perfectly coiffed friend of Dorothy’s, but I’ve spent my entire career advocating for the rights of America’s most brutally repressed identity — straight people — so I know a thing or two about discrimination,” Yiannopoulos said in a statement released by the group in June.

Despite the lighthearted comments, Yiannopoulos has been banned from Facebook and banned from entering Australia over dangerous rhetoric. Last year, he encouraged followers to start “gunning journalists down,” two days before a Maryland paper, Capital Gazette, was targeted in a shooting that killed five people.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

The parade can’t be stopped legally — Mayor Marty Walsh previously said the city cannot deny a permit based on an organization’s values — but hundreds of would-be counter-protesters have RSVPed on Facebook that they’ll show up on Saturday. Some hope to disrupt the parade, while others, including Monica Cannon-Grant, the founder of Violence in Boston, intend to hold stationary demonstrations.

“The world is watching and how we deal with racism and how we deal with hatred and how we deal with discrimination is going to be recorded,” Cannon-Grant said. “And I think we have an obligation to stand up and fight, so that’s what I plan to do.”