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    Hatred Does Not Cease by Hatred

    By John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney–

    As many readers may know, queer demonstrators protesting among other things police presence and corporate participation in this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade delayed the march for 50 minutes, one minute for each year after Stonewall. We were marching with the LGBT Asylum Project, a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to LGBTIQ immigrants fleeing persecution in their home countries and seeking asylum in the United States. The delay in the parade actually gave us the opportunity to have in-depth conversations with the queer asylees. Indeed, we learned of a most extraordinary attempt not by queer activists, but by far-right anti-LGBTIQ extremists to disrupt this June’s Pride March of Equality in Kiev, Ukraine.

    As the asylees explained to us and we later confirmed on the website of Bellingcat (an organization that monitors right-wing movements in Ukraine, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan), anti-LGBTIQ extremists had hatched a depraved and despicable plot “to literally throw feces at Pride participants.” On the morning of the Pride march, the Kiev Police Chief announced that they had thwarted the plot, arresting nine people whom they accused of setting up what police called a “s–t-laboratory.”

    According to the police, the extremists—whom many now refer to as “excremists”—“admitted that they had stolen four portable toilets filled with feces, set up a laboratory and stuffed approximately 200 condoms full of feces to throw at Kiev Pride marchers and police.” Police say they caught the extremists, who purportedly are associates of a “fiercely anti-LGBT Pentecostal pastor,” as they were driving toward the march in their van.

    According to Bellingcat, another news source reported that not only had the right-wing fanatics “poured the feces” from the toilets into barrels “without respirators,” while being swarmed by flies, but also “[a]t times, apparently, the men themselves were covered in the filth from the toilets when some of the stuffed condoms burst.”

    We and Ukrainians who immediately took to the internet to mock the extremists could think of no more fitting outcome for their efforts. The Kiev Pride March itself appears to have been a great success with only “a few minor incidents,” according to Bellingcat.

    On both a political and personal level, the image of the hate-filled extremists covered in their own filth that they had stolen to hurl at others is a powerful metaphor for the destructiveness of anger and hatred not only on its innocent victims who are its intended object but also on the perpetrators themselves.

    In the words of the Buddhist adage, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but by not hating. This is the eternal truth.” Or in the words of Richard Nixon the morning that he was forced to resign the presidency: “Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.” And who can forget the “angel activists,” who spread their wings wide to shield Matthew Sheppard’s family from the vitriolic anti-gay messages of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church at the trial of Sheppard’s killers?

    Not being consumed by hatred does not foreclose bold, passionate and timely action to stop harm. The Ukrainian LGBTIQ community is doubtlessly grateful to the police for foiling the plot in the nick of time and protecting the marchers. Indeed, in researching this topic further, we were horrified to learn that far-right protestors at a Baltic Pride event in Riga, Latvia, in the early 2000s successfully carried out a similar plot.

    San Francisco ignited the marriage equality movement 15 years ago by boldly opening the doors of City Hall for LGBTIQ couples to marry, revealing queer love to the nation unlike ever before. We remember how some of the prominent anti-LGBTIQ opponents acknowledged that their words and actions had given the public the impression that they were mean. Indeed, they were—even as they professed not to be.

    One of the great joys and reasons for the success of the marriage equality movement was that its primary focus was on what’s right about LGBTIQ people and our love, and not what’s wrong with someone else, as the other side argued over and over. Indeed, upon victory we were showered with love … far better than the alternative!

    John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Their leadership in the grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA contributed in 2015 to making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.