Photo submitted by Ceara Bryson
UPDATED: June 17, 2019
The month of June is known as Pride month, which was created to celebrate the strides made by LGBTQ people in the face of discrimination. But some say the battle is ongoing.
On Saturday, June 8, the city of Birmingham held its 41st annual Central Alabama Pride Parade along 7th Avenue South at 8 p.m. In attendance was Ceara Bryson, 24, and her girlfriend, Kimberly.
That weekend, Bryson and Kimberly joined hundreds of people in the hour-long march, affirming their love for one another and themselves. But Bryson said the joy stopped there.
“I have never experienced anything like that night,” Bryson said. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
TROUBLE AT THE TIN ROOF?
At midnight, Bryson said the couple left the parade, along with other friends, to continue their celebrations at a local bar, the Tin Roof. While enjoying the entertainment at the front stage of the bar, Bryson said she was interrupted by a young woman behind them who was allegedly shoving her. Bryson said she then moved herself and her girlfriend away from the woman, only to see that she had followed the couple to the other side of the stage.
After being shoved again, Bryson said she peacefully approached the woman but was met with homophobic slurs and a hit that knocked her to the floor unconscious.
“Next thing I remember was everyone helping me up off the ground,” Bryson said.
Bryson said she and her girlfriend were leaving the local Birmingham bar with two off-duty police officers when she spotted the woman who knocked her over.
“I was like, ‘That’s her right there!’ and I was pointing her out,” she said, noting that the officers made no movement toward the woman to get a name.
As Bryson was explaining to the officers that she wanted to press charges, she said she was denied that right.
“They just kept telling me that I was belligerent and inebriated,” Bryson said. “I had one drink at that bar … I even told the officer that I would take a breathalyzer just so I could press charges.”
After the incident, Bryson said she went to the emergency room, where she left with the knowledge of having a lip laceration, a closed head injury and a seizure from either the hit to her head or from when she hit her head on the ground.
“I just wish someone could have been held accountable for it,” Bryson said. “It was like no one was responsible.”
But others say the details of the case aren’t all there.
The Crimson White reached out to the Birmingham Police Department about the Tin Roof incident on Friday, June 14. Public information officer Sgt. Johnny Williams said Bryson’s account of the altercation was “true but misleading” because there was another South Precinct officer on-duty at the Tin Roof that night in addition to the two off-duty officers.
On Monday, June 17, an employee at the Tin Roof said she was unaware of the incident and said that the bar was so crowded Saturday night that staff wouldn’t have noticed a fight. She also said the Tin Roof hires two on-duty police officers on weekends, and that there were several people there that night who were celebrating Pride.
The Crimson White is still waiting on a response from the officers involved, and we’ll let you know when we do. But what we do know is this: Though the details of the case are muddy, Bryson’s account of what happened at the Tin Roof is not abnormal. Around the state, and around the nation, stories of violence against LGBTQ people are surfacing among public celebrations of pride.
Less than a month ago, the mayor of Carbon Hill, Alabama, called for the genocide of LGBTQ people. Nationwide, this month has already seen the killings of Alunte Davis, Timothy Blancher, Ronald Peters and Paris Cameron – three gay men and one transgender woman – in what have been determined as hate crimes.
The Crimson White also recognizes that many of these cases go unreported, and that’s why we’re asking you to tell us about your Pride experiences. So far, we’ve gotten a handful of responses. Some were from fake emails, but several verified responses outlined improvements to safety and accessibility.
One Tuscaloosa resident was at the Birmingham parade on June 8.
“The parade was awesome and HUGE!” they wrote. “Was very impressed with the amount of kids & families there. BUT one thing I noticed and talked about that night was the lack of police presence & security.”
Another respondent, a UA student, said they felt safe at Pride, but noted that they prefer smaller events, such as Druid City Pride in Tuscaloosa.
“I’ve been to Magic City Pride in the past and its not very accessible for autistic queer people,” they wrote. “At least in the sense that it’s not easy to find uncrowded quieter places without having a VIP pass.”
Of the responses The Crimson White has received so far, we learned that the majority of respondents reported feeling “very safe” at Pride events and slightly less safe before or after those events. While most respondents noted having generally positive experiences, some told of violent encounters with outsiders.
A UA student who attended Pride Weekend in Pensacola, Florida, described a car following them and their friends.
“They then sped up and drove past calling us f****ts and threw oranges at us,” they wrote. “It happened pretty quick but when I looked up to see oranges coming at me I tried to see their face but they were all wearing masks of pepe the frog, that alt right hate symbol.”
In their response, the student noted that the incident didn’t ruin their weekend or stop them from attending Pride events in the future. Rather, it left them with questions they felt have gone unanswered.
“[I] hate to think there are people out there that have nothing better to do than dress up and harass people,” they wrote.
Among the accounts, others noted the importance of community, and namely, the importance of Pride.
FAMOUS RESPONSES TO PRIDE
As a part of her Sweetener Tour, Ariana Grande stopped in Atlanta on Saturday, June 8. To close out her concert that night, she lit the stage and the arena with the rainbow colors of the Pride flag. Excitement filled the crowd – except for one concert attendee who was waiting outside of the State Farm Arena, waving an anti-Pride flag.
In attendance were two Tuscaloosa natives, Daniella Bravo and Ellen Williams, who said they are both allies of the LGBTQ community.
“It’s sad but was clearly for attention,” Williams said. “The amount of people who stepped up to encounter him was really great.”
As the protester’s flag flew amongst the crowd, Bravo said many banded together to crowd him out.
“It made me feel angry that he would come out protesting at an event that was filled with positivity, but also it was an empowering moment seeing everyone stand together,” Bravo said.
CONNECT WITH US
The Crimson White would like to hear more of these stories, which give dimension to narratives of pride and progress. Want to help us? Fill out the survey below. Your responses may be used for future articles, but your names will be kept anonymous unless you give us permission to publish them.