Creating Change Conference attendees oppose pinkwashing

Photo Credit:Sarah-Ji of loveandstrugglephotos.com

Last Friday, a groups of protesters at the Creating Change Conference in Chicago called for the organizers and the National LGBTQ Task Force to be accountable following their decision to allow a reception sponsored by a Zionist organization—A Wider Bridge.

The decision was  a clear example of “pinkwashing,” a strategy which shifts “the focus to a very narrow definition of LGBT rights (exclusive, of course, of queer Palestinians)” to “normalize the occupation of Palestinian land by distracting from the violent, inhumane actions of the Israeli settler state,” according to the protesters.

The “pinkwashing” service and reception being welcomed back by the National LGBTQ Task Force shortly before the conference began, it wasn’t long before activists attending the conference or paying close attention to the situation responded. Several individuals and organizations endorsed an emergency action to demand accountability from the Task Force and oppose pinkwashing. On the Facebook event page, organizers note, “Just as we cannot make space for [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE to be promoted at Creating Change, we must oppose Creating Change being a platform for Israel advocacy organizations that seek to cover up the brutality of the occupation.”

At the protest Friday night, community members, students, and organizers from groups like Black Lives Matter Chicago, Students for Justice in Palestine and Queers Against Israeli Pinkwashing, lined up in the hallways of the Hilton Hotel, where the conference was being held.

“I can easily say we were 300 or 400 people,” said activist Mirna Haider. During a negotiation with Task Force members, Haider responded to justifications of fair representation and dialogue by stating, “There cannot be fair dialogue between the oppressor and the oppressed.”

Gay Liberation Network uploaded the following video on YouTube from the protest:

SJP member and University of Chicago student Hoda Katebi said protesters experienced violence during their action.

“Hotel security were actively threatening arrest and violently reacting to queer, femme, black bodies while the LGBTQ Task Force silently watched the mal-treatment of the conference attendees,” Haider said. She added that hotel security finally forced conference organizers to shut down the reception.

While no official response from the Task Force has been made, activists from across the country have continued to demand the conference organizers apologize for hosting the pinkwashing organization.

Zach Taylor

Zach Taylor is a third-year student at the University of Chicago majoring in Geographical Studies and Comparative Race & Ethnic Studies. He is an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine and a staff writer for the South Side Weekly.

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