Organizers of a California LGBT Pride festival have asked police officers not to participate in a parade on Sunday while donning patrol attire, reportedly disinviting cops from taking part as a uniformed march contingent following weeks of discussions.
According to the Sacramento LGBT Community Center which produces the event, the request is one of several initiatives implemented this year “to improve” the city’s annual Pride celebration.
Its website explains: “We have consistently heard from many queer and transgender people of color in our community that they can be triggered by the police uniform at Pride, which for them represent personally traumatic experiences and systemic injustices.”
“Creating a space where all queer and trans community members feel safe is critically important.”
Sacramento organizers point out the significance of this year’s Pride Month, which marks the 50th anniversary of the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. At the time, law enforcement periodically raided such establishments, arresting gay and transgender people under moral laws of the era. However, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, several of the tavern’s patrons fought back, resulting in five nights of demonstrations and violent clashes with police. The revolt is widely credited with sparking the modern gay rights movement.
“The foundation of Pride 50 years ago was the original Stonewall Riots which was an uprising against police brutality,” said David Heitstuman, executive director of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, in an interview with the local FOX television affiliate. “Not everyone feels safe in the presence of uniforms.”
“LGBTQ officers” told FOX that the uniform controversy had been the subject of talks for weeks, including a two-hour meeting last Wednesday attended by Sacramento’s police chief and event organizers.
As reported by FOX40 News:
For years uniformed gay, trans and cisgender Sacramento officers have staffed outreach booths and marched in PRIDE. Last year was the first time they were asked not to participate, as the community grappled with the police killing of Stephon Clark. Understanding the kind of pain members of the public were feeling, they did not.
Officers say re-entering PRIDE was to be one more way they’re working to rebuild trust in the community. For them, wearing their academy polos or regular t-shirts wouldn’t help the public see them as regular people and get more comfortable approaching them. Officers have been warned by event organizers that even in their polos, protests of their presence are likely.
The new policy initiative follows a growing trend to minimize police presence at Pride events. The recent wave of anti-cop sentiment began in 2016 when LGBT representatives in San Francisco and Toronto used gay pride as a platform to honor Black Lives Matter. Leaders within the BLM activist network believe policing is an inherently racist institution that enables white supremacy and capitalism to oppress marginalized people.
Another BLM-inspired group, called No Justice No Pride, has since formed. It seeks “to end the LGBT movement’s complicity with systems of oppression,” which includes police departments. The organization has disrupted multiple Pride parades on the East Coast.
In 2017, Pride marchers in New York displayed a pink banner the width of 5th Avenue that read: “There are no queer friendly cops.”
Meanwhile, Sacramento Pride organizers have cautioned those who plan on attending this weekend’s events that uniformed cops will be on hand to oversee street closures and patrol the venue “in compliance with the City’s Special Events Ordinance safety requirements.”
“We will have private security and identifiable community safety monitors throughout the March and Festival as an alternative first response to any conflict or need for assistance by guests,” organizers said. “We will continue to seek opportunities to reduce the need for police and increase safety at the events.”
The Sacramento Police Department released a statement in response to the controversy, saying it is “disappointed” in the LGBT Center’s decision.
“We support our LGBTQ officers who proudly serve our community on a daily basis,” the statement said. “They have worked hard to earn these uniforms and are proud to wear them.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.