Wisconsin Pride in the Park event stays strong amid Neo-Nazi protest

Monday, July 31, 2023
Wisconsin Pride in the Park event stays strong amid anti-LGBTQ protest
An LGBTQ+ event in Wisconsin, Watertown's Pride in the Park, kept going strong amid protests.

WATERTOWN, Wis. -- Organizers say a group of neo-Nazis protested their LGBTQ event in Wisconsin.

They said it was scary when members of "the blood tribe" showed up at "Pride in the Park" over the weekend, WKOW reported.

"Surreal to see it," said Julie Janowak, one of the Watertown Pride in the Park organizers. "They marched in waving swastika flags, covered, you couldn't see they had sunglasses on. You couldn't see their face. I think they had gloves on, long sleeves, long pants."

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Watertown's Pride in the Park is no stranger to pushback.

Last year, an opposing group in the town tried to have the event canceled completely.

When they couldn't -- they protested.

"This year, there was a lot less of the local talk, they kind of realized that they couldn't stop it last year, so they weren't going to try this year," said Trent Kangas, another Pride in the Park organizer.

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Organizers say many of the original protesters Saturday were similar to those in 2022.

Then they heard chanting from the Blood Tribe.

"It was intimidating the way they were waving the flags around, and they had a big banner that said something about pedophiles, and then they were just chanting 'blood, blood, blood,'" Janowak said.

Organizers said there was a mix of confusion, disbelief and fear as they saw swastika flags flying just on the other side of the fence.

"Individuals who were waving those flags and had those weapons, they don't have scruples," said Elizabeth Boxell, a Pride in the Park organizer. "They're not thinking about us as people. They're thinking about us as enemies, targets, inhumane."

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Organizers said they're thankful to have a good relationship with the Watertown Police Department, which had officers there for protection.

They said the neo-Nazi group wasn't there for long, so after the initial shock and fear dissipated, they turned their attention back to pride.

"We experienced it. We were scared, but then that fear turned into this like fierce kind of love and acceptance, and like forget them. We're louder. We can be louder. We can be stronger," Boxell said.

Organizers said they know what happened Saturday could be hard for some attendees to process.

They're working with clergy and others to provide support for those who need it.