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Queers for Palestine Boycott Success at National Student Pride  

By Lilac Carr, BA Politics and International Relations

“Queers for Palestine further stated that the result was “made possible by the incredible solidarity of our queer community and sets a precedent for other Pride organisations.”

For the Queers for Palestine Logo, ‘Queers for Palestine Logo  (@queers .for.palestine, Instagram)’

National Student Pride, the foremost annual event in the UK for queer students, was met with boycotts from groups Queers for Palestine and Fossil Free Pride over sponsors with investments in Israeli arms companies and the fossil fuel industry. Following talks with the groups and the withdrawal of numerous queer performers from the event, National Student Pride cut ties with all sponsors tied to Israeli arms companies. Queers for Palestine called it a ‘huge victory for the BDS movement in queer spaces.’

On February 16, Queers for Palestine announced a boycott of the event, demanding the cutting of ties with sponsors such as HSBC, Disney and Deutsche Bank over their links to Israel, alongside the slogan ‘No pride in genocide.’ Fossil Free Pride, on February 20, demanded the same for several banks sponsoring the event. These sponsors cumulatively financed the fossil fuel industry with over $302 billion from 2016 to 2022. Both groups also publicly declared support for each other’s campaigns. Queers for Palestine declared that “Colonialism and the climate crisis are inextricable,” and accused the sponsors of using the event to pinkwash their complicity in both genocide and the climate crisis.

Numerous queer performers and stalls dropped out of the event in support of the boycott, including prominent UK drag artist and activist Crystal, who was scheduled to host the event. Several queer organisations, such as Ravers for Palestine and drag shows Lese Majeste and Friends of the Joiners Arms, set up mutual aid and strike funds for vulnerable queer performers set to lose income due to pulling out of the event. Ravers for Palestine, in partnership with Queers for Palestine, asserted that “The boycott of this corporate and pinkwashed Pride event is an opportunity to reassert the radical roots of the queer liberation struggle.”

On February 22, National Student Pride responded to the boycott, announcing that they had “come to the decision with Deutsche Bank, HBSC, Amazon and Disney that we will part ways and return their sponsorship in full… at significant cost to our event and organisation.” They also promised they would do more over the course of the coming year and thanked the groups for their activism, stating “We make each other better.” 

Queers for Palestine welcomed the decision and announced they were cancelling their boycott of the event. Queers for Palestine further stated that the result was “made possible by the incredible solidarity of our queer community and sets a precedent for other Pride organisations.” Fossil Free Pride also welcomed the decision, but noted that there were still two sponsors, Lloyds Bank and Standard Chartered, who funded the fossil fuel industry and that “Without this funding, companies like BP and Shell couldn’t exploit our planet and communities.” However, they also revealed they are now in discussion with National Student Pride and hope for positive news on the matter soon.

The success of this boycott comes in the context of long-standing controversy over corporate sponsorship and perceived commodification and depoliticisation of Pride in the UK and other Western countries. A resurgence in radical queer politics and organising has been seen in the past few years, including by groups such as Queers for Palestine and Fossil Free Pride. These groups continue to push for an end to sponsorships, performers and investments that have ties to Israel and the fossil fuel industry in all Pride events. 

In London, London Trans+ Pride is an organisation and yearly protest formed in 2019 in direct response to this perceived depoliticisation of Pride, as well as an increasingly transphobic climate in the UK. London Trans+ Pride positions itself as a “response to the injustice that trans, intersex, gender nonconforming and non-binary people face daily, all over the world.”

Other groups, such as the Reclaim Pride Coalition in NYC, have been campaigning against “corporate sponsorship and police involvement in pride,” referring back to the radical roots and “tradition of early Pride marches”. Pride originated in 1969, in the form of riots at Stonewall Inn in New York against police brutality and violence directed at queer and trans people. 

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