Socialist Party members on the solidarity vigil in Leeds – photo Tanis Belsham-Wray
Despite bad weather, a bus strike and being late at night, close to 500 people gathered in Leeds city centre on the June 13 around the local LGBTQ* scene to hold a vigil for the victims of the shooting in Orlando the previous day. This was a strong show of solidarity from LGBTQ* people and their allies from across the city and wider area, reflected in countless other vigils across the world.
Michael Johnson, Leeds Socialist Party
Though while the crowd gathered in remembrance it was clear that people there wanted to do more than a vigil and were passionate about fighting both LGBTphobia and the Islamophobia the attack had kicked up; Socialist Party placards reading “No to LGBTphobia, no to Islamophobia” were hugely popular as were leaflets covering the same topic.
While the Leeds vigil organisers rightly deserves to be commended for the detail and effort put into it at such short notice, and making sure the fact this shooting was a terrorist act of LGBTQ* phobia, which is sadly being ignored by many news outlets.
But it was a shame there was a lack of political lead from the organisers and speakers; only really touching on political action with a brief mention of the EU referendum. This, combined with a lack of diversity amongst the speakers (particularly around gender), mostly being gay identifying men, affected the vigils ability to fully address the context the shooting in Orlando happened in, such the still ongoing attacks on trans rights (such as bathroom bills).
Without this much needed political context the organisers amongst the LGBTQ* in Leeds will struggle to provide direction to fight LGBTphobia facing the community in Leeds and across the world. This is why it is vital for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, non-binary and queer people to get active, not just within LGBTQ* right campaigns but all attacks facing the working class to fight and beat oppression.