What actually happened inside the D.C. Dyke March

Jewish LGBTQ and allied groups were confronted by organizers of the D.C. Dyke March on Friday.

The Jewish marchers, escorted by Metro Police, approached McPherson Square in downtown Washington D.C. Friday afternoon where they were stopped by D.C. Dyke March organizers, who created a silent blockade, preventing the Jewish marchers from entering the larger gathering space for the march.

The confrontation occurred on the sidelines of the square, with hundreds of other activists across the way organizing ahead of the march’s start time.. The two sides faced each other in silence before debating whether Jewish groups carrying Jewish pride flags could join the demonstration.

Jewish-LGBTQ activsits and allies (right) debate with D.C. Dyke March organizers (left) about the presence of the Jewish Pride flag, a rainbow flag with the Star of David in the middle.

“We really strongly believe Jewish and Palestinian dykes equally deserve to take up space,” said Jill Raney, one of the D.C. Dyke March organizers and a member of IfNotNow, an American-Jewish activist group. “…so we ask for folks to take a look at these signs and think about is this a symbol of a government that has done harmful things to people, or is this a symbol of your pride in a community. Noticing the important difference of being Jewish and being a Zionist.”

D.C. Dyke March organizers charged the Jewish pride flag too closely resembled the Israeli flag, a nationalist symbol that to them represents Palestinian oppression. The Palestinian flag, they argued, is representative of freedom and not a specific government or country and so would be allowed.

“…The hope for Palestinian freedom, not a specific government,” Raney said.

Jewish groups countered that the Palestinian flag represents a nationalist movement and that banning Jewish pride flags was antisemitic, removing the Star of David from the march.

“That’s symbolizing a country, that’s nationalism,” said one of the Jewish activists. “So we disagree about that, and that’s ok that we disagree…” Raney countered.

Steph Black, a student at American University, holds a Jewish Pride flag and argues with D.C. Dyke March organizes while holding her flag.

In video from the event published by Israel on Campus Coalition, Raney suggests that the Jewish marchers “move” the Star of David’s placement on the flag. “All we ask is that you move… in order to have the Jewish pride flag not be about Zionism, all you’ve got to do is just move the star… You could have brought something different…”

In another confrontation, with Dyke March organizers suggested different versions of the Jewish star on a Pride flag, Anne Lewis, former White House communications director in the Clinton administration, replied, “We could fix it — we could do it this way [mimes a square], and then nobody would even know we were Jewish, how’s that?”

The confrontations weaved together different debates. Organizers also asked that only Dykes participate in the march, with allies — men and straight women — asked to support from the sidelines.

“…You’re holding a space for people and so are we,” said Amanda Berman, executive director of Zioness Movement, who helped organize supporters to march with the Jewish pride flag, as more people gathered around the central conversation to see what would happen. “And we are really excited to join you, in solidarity, with our Queer sisters as both queer Jews and as allies, thank you for welcoming us.”

In the end, the Jewish Dykes were allowed to march with their flags and signs and with selected leaders of Jewish organizations accompanying them in the march.

Carly Pildis, a writer and Jewish activist, was one of the women asked to stay to march with the Jewish-LGBTQ women, and said that a lot of the group “respectfully went home.”

“We really wanted to honor that space, we’re not interested in hurting anyone or taking anyone’s space. Everyone I’ve talked to here, at least other than the people mediating were sort of like, ‘what happened? That’s a bummer? Why did you have a hard time getting in?’ We just want the Jewish women who are here and want to fly the flag to be able to. I feel like we succeeded in that.”

Groups that came out to support the Jewish-LGBTQ community included A Wider Bridge, Zioness Movement and Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, and representatives from the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

One attendee said she didn’t realize there was a controversy around the rainbow flag and started talking to the Jewish-LGBTQ group out of curiosity.

“I’ve never heard this topic before, interesting in a way but kind of sad in a way,” said Alex, 20, from Richmond, VA, who came to the march with friends because she’s a lesbian. She asked that her last name not be used.

When she arrived she saw the two groups talking and went to see what was happening. “I heard there was a bit of discourse between a flag… Personally, me looking at that, I didn’t think that it was Israeli at all, I just thought, oh it’s a pride flag and this person is Jewish-queer person, and they’re reppin’ themselves fully and thats great.”

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