The L.A. Pride Parade and Festival in West Hollywood is a fixture of Los Angeles life. This year it celebrates its 50th anniversary. It would have been a grand celebration, but because of the pandemic, Christopher Street West Association, the organization producing the event, had to scramble to pivot virtually. The organization is going virtual this year, with a primetime special airing on a major network. Despite this, Estevan Montemayor, Board President of the organization, says L.A.’s LGBT won’t be beat.
Half a century ago, Los Angeles’ pride parade began to commemorate the Stonewall uprising the year before. There were pride marches in New York City and Chicago, but Montemayor says L.A. was different: it was a parade, not a march.
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While it may seem like semantics at this point, by calling it a parade instead of a march (a constitutional right to assemble), the LGBT community opened the door to governmental regulation. “We had to get permits to close the street down, to have a parade go down Hollywood Boulevard. It wasn’t easy,” said Montemayor. “The [Los Angeles Police Department] wasn’t supportive at the time, and we had to fight LAPD unfairly targeting our community. They put incredible financial burdens on us, which would have made it financially impossible to parade.”
Among the stipulations the LAPD put on was that the organization had to put up a bond for $1 million to pay out any damage to businesses incurred along the way on top of a $500,000 cash bond, as well as get 5,000 people to participate in the parade.
In the face of such insurmountable financial burdens, the American Civil Liberties Union got involved and managed to argue Christopher Street West’s side effectively. The judge ordered the city of Los Angeles to “protect these people even if you need to call out the National Guard.”
Today, celebrations like L.A. Pride Parade and Festival may seem like such a part of the cultural fabric that it’s easy to forget how difficult it was half a century ago to even set foot in public as an LGBT person. “That was a historical moment, when this organization said, ‘No, LAPD we will not back down; we are going to proceed,” said Montemayor.
Montemayor says these posters of the parade all tell a story of a yearly reminder not to back down, not to give up. The 1972 poster is one that can be seen adorning the walls of Rocco’s. 2003’s poster shows Cyndi Lauper and Belinda Jo Carlisle, which clues viewers in on how important women allies were to the organization. “These posters really tell the story of the times, even with just specific nuances and color choice and font,” said Montemayor.
See posters from 50 years of L.A. Pride. Click right or left below.