In San Francisco in 1973, gay activist Harvey Milk successfully petitioned gay bars in the Castro District to stop selling Coors beer. This was in response to an appeal from the Teamsters union who called for a boycott of Coors as the company refused to sign a Union contract. The gay community were themselves hostile to the company as Coors implemented a strict employment discrimination policy and refused to hire gay workers. With the help of a coalition of Arab and Chinese grocers the Teamsters had also recruited, the boycott was successful. In return, the Union hired more gay men to drive Teamsters beer trucks. It was a splendid example of solidarity.
A year later in Dublin, a very minor but compelling event brought together trade unionists and gay activists. Even if was just for fifteen minutes!
On Saturday 27th June 1974, ten lesbians and gay men protested in Dublin in what was the first ever public demonstration of LGBT Pride on the island of Ireland. The group included Northern Irish gay political activist Jeff Dudgeon and the then Trinity Lecturer David Norris.
The protestors first picketed the British Embassy in Ballsbridge where one of the group organisers, the Sexual Liberation Movement (SLM) handed in a letter to the British Embassy in protest against the existing anti-gay legislation in Northern Ireland.
The group then marched to the Department of Justice on St. Stephen’s Green holding signs such as ‘Homosexuals are Revolting’ and ‘Lesbian Pride’. The small group of brave men and women literally stopped traffic as bus drivers and bicycle messengers slowed down or came to a screeching halt while trying to get a better look.
David Norris, in his autobiography, recalls an incredible incident when a lorry pulled up outside the Department during the picket:
A large roll of carpet was flung out the back of the lorry and a burly man descended. He took one look at us and shouted back to his colleague in the driving seat, ‘Jesus, Mick, they’re fuckin’ queers!’
A head appeared at the window and took in the situation. Then a deep bass voice shouted back, ‘Whorrabowra sure I don’t give a bollicks, a picket’s a fucking picket mate’ and with that an even larger and more muscular lorry driver jumped out of the cab and joined our picket for a quarter of an hour, leaving the minister’s carpet stranded on the pavement.
A splendid example of worker solidarity.
For more photographs and memories, check out the Irish Queer Archive on Facebook.