LGBTQ+ groups have renewed calls for a boycott of Birmingham Pride this weekend in response to the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

Activists are urging members of the community to boycott the event until organisers sever ties with headline sponsor HSBC, who they claim is funding arms sales to Israel.

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), the banking firm invests billions into companies arming Israel, which it says contributes to human rights abuses.

On its website, HSBC states: “We firmly believe that who you love or how you identify should never be a barrier to opportunity.

“That’s why we’re proud to support Birmingham Pride – one of the UKs [sic] largest Pride festivals – and stand with our colleagues and customers to challenge prejudice through Pride marches across the UK.”

However, campaigners believe the company is attempting to sanitise its image while enabling Israel’s war on Gaza, for which the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor has this week issued arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials.

“Pinkwashing is a propaganda strategy used to conceal human rights violation through the facade of support for LGBTQ+ rights, used by apartheid Israel and corporations such as HSBC,” a spokesperson for PSC explained.

“HSBC invest over £800 million in and provide syndicated loans worth up to £19 billion for, companies arming Israel.

“One such company is Caterpillar, who supplies the Israeli military, with specifically designed bulldozers. These bulldozers are used specifically to demolish Palestinian communities, Israel’s illegal settlements and apartheid wall.

“To obscure their complicity, and protect their branding, HSBC provides sponsorship and funding for LGBTQ+ pride festivals across the world, and in the UK they are the main sponsors of Birmingham Pride. This funding acts to ‘pinkwash’ HSBC’s image, concealing their involvement in human rights abuses.”

A solidarity sticker for Palestine displayed at the University of Birmingham student encampmentAdam Yosef
A solidarity sticker for Palestine displayed at the University of Birmingham student encampment

Following the most recent wave of Israeli attacks on the people of Gaza in October, Birmingham queer alternative music collective Outcast Stomp has also been calling for a boycott of the city’s Pride event.

“Until Birmingham Pride festival drop their sponsorships from companies complicit in the occupation and genocide of Palestine we call for this: Queer people of Birmingham and beyond – do not attend Birmingham Pride events,” a statement from the group read.

“Artists and performers – reject Birmingham Pride’s offers and drop out of their events. Companies, stalls, organisers – drop out of Birmingham Pride’s events.

“These companies do not get to use our community’s vibrant queerness to pinkwash the blood from their hands. They will not get their names plastered all over our joy to promote themselves while their funds continue to go towards slaughtering countless martyrs in occupied Palestine.”

The organisation is urging Birmingham Pride organisers to remove HSBC as an event partner, along with sponsors Glamazon, McDonalds and Mondelez; all of which they have described as “genocide-profiteering companies”.

Several other groups, including Queers for Palestine, have joined calls for a boycott of the West Midlands annual mardi gras style event.

Pro-Palestine protest action has been taking place in Birmingham for several monthsAdam Yosef
Pro-Palestine protest action has been taking place in Birmingham for several months
Campaigners are calling for Birmingham Pride to drop select corporate sponsors Birmingham Pride
Campaigners are calling for Birmingham Pride to drop select corporate sponsors

Birmingham Radical Unity Hive have shared posts on social media declaring they “fully support Outcast Stomp Brum’s call for a boycott of Birmingham Pride until they drop their sponsorships from companies complicit in Palestinian genocide.”

Global boycotts of pro-Israel companies are part of the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which works “to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”.

Community groups joining the Pride parade this year have been encouraged to show solidarity to Palestine during the march, while many groups have decided to host their own events on Saturday, away from official Birmingham Pride activities.

A ‘Die-in for Humanity’ protest co-organised by the Stop the War Coalition will be held outside the Bullring at 1pm (Saturday 25 May), with alternative Pride activities planned to be held in Cathedral Square (Pigeon Park) and at the Gaza Heart encampment currently occupying the University of Birmingham.

A Sober Pride event organised by Q:Hive and supporting Palestinian liberation is  also taking place on Saturday at the Moseley Hive community hub, between 10am – 12pm. Organisers  have distanced themselves from Birmingham Pride, which they describe as “complicit in the genocide of Palestine”.

During 11am – 12pm on the same day, an Open Mic event titled ‘Resistance through Art’ is being held at Pigeon Park outside the Birmingham cathedral. The gathering will mark 76 years of the Palestinian Nakba and welcomes anyone who wishes to perform or enjoy song, poetry and public storytelling.

Activists have accused banking giant HSBC of "pinkwashing" and "supporting genocide"PSC
Activists have accused banking giant HSBC of “pinkwashing” and “supporting genocide”
Birmingham Pride is a two-day festival being held on 25 and 26 May Adam Yosef
Birmingham Pride is a two-day festival being held on 25 and 26 May

In recent months, other businesses targeted by Birmingham pro-Palestinian protesters have included Barclays bank and LondonMetric.

B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organisation, described recent arrest warrants by the ICC as marking “Israel’s rapid decline into a moral abyss”.

“The international community is signalling to Israel that it can no longer maintain its policy of violence, killing and destruction without accountability,” it added.

Birmingham Pride is a two-day festival – one of the largest in the UK – and attracts around 40,000 people on the currently vacant Smithfield site in Birmingham city centre.

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