Trump flag booth at Biloxi LGBTQ+ Pride event causes controversy

Alyssa Newton/anewton@sunherald.com
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A booth selling flags supporting former President Donald Trump at a popular Biloxi LGBTQ+ pride event has caused backlash on social media.

The Flag Lady registered for Mississippi Gulf Coast Pride Day and set up a vending booth displaying “Trump for America” and Mississippi for Trump flags across from the pavilion of the free event celebrating gay pride along the Coast.

The same vendor was asked to leave Woolmarket Elementary School earlier this year for selling flags at a PTO-sponsored event.

The vendor posted photos from the school and from Pride Day on Facebook.

“This is outrageous,” posted Mary Capps on Facebook. “Pride events should be safe spaces for us.”

Some social media posts suggested those who complained about the vendor were escorted out by police, who were there working the event. An event planner said the police escorted people who were “belligerent to police officers,” not for opposing the booth. No arrests were made.

The event was organized by the Gulf Coast Association of Pride. The nonprofit’s president, Walter Pitts, said GCAP does not support any political party or candidate.

“GCAP is for everybody,” he said. “It’s a freedom-of-speech right.”

Some say the issue goes deeper than freedom of speech. It’s a matter of safety.

“Queer people aren’t safe because of them, in case you’ve forgotten,” Theia Calidris posted on GCAP’s Facebook page.

The organization received both support and complaints regarding the booth. While some expressed their love for GCAP, others had complaints. Marjie Davis said the Trump booth was the first thing she saw when she arrived and shared her dismay with Pitts.

“Seeing ‘Trump’ (who endorses conversion therapy) at a pride event made me feel unwelcome,”she said.

Gulf Coast Equality, which runs Gulf Coast Equality Fest each year in October, said their group had nothing to do with the vendor booths at Gulf Coast Pride Day. President Molly Kester said on Facebook that Equality Fest will not allow a Trump booth at their event.

The Mississippi Rising Coalition, an advocacy group, encouraged everyone to contact GCAP and tell them the vendor did not represent GCAP’s mission statement.

“By allowing that booth GCAP is complicit in the very movement trying to erase the LGBTQIA+ community,” posted the organization. Trump’s policies “have rolled back all federal protections for the Trans and Non-binary members of our community.”

When asked if future events would have the same policy, Pitts said the organization was still conducting an investigation and speaking to their attorney before releasing an official statement.

Despite the controversy around the vendor table, more than 1,000 people went out to Point Cadet Plaza on Saturday, including families, and enjoyed food and fun and watched more than a dozen drag performances. Rainbows, a popular symbol for the LGBTQ community, were on full display, as well as other flags that represented the trans, non-binary and other community members.

Hundreds celebrated the crowning of the 2022 Mr. and Miss Pride, Adonis Addicktion Delorean and Catastrophe Nicole Knight.

“I am honored, excited, and shook. Thank you everyone, I couldn’t be happier to be your Pride Queen 2022,” Catastrophe posted on Facebook.

Pride weekend featured other drag shows, events and brunches across the Coast.