San Francisco mayor boycotts Pride Parade over ban on uniformed officers marching

Cities around country have reckoned with what, if any, police presence should be at Pride

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 24 May 2022 00:30
Comments
Barack Obama announces the Stonewall National Monument

San Francisco Mayor London Breed will be boycotting the city’s upcoming Pride Parade, one of the nation’s largest and most iconic, because of organisers’ stance that off-duty police officers can’t march in full uniform during the 26 June event.

It’s the latest rift over what role, if any, police should have in Pride events, given the epidemic of police violence against LGBT+ people, and the gay liberation movement’s long-standing history of resisting police abuse.

"I’ve made this very hard decision in order to support those members of the LGBTQ community who serve in uniform, in our Police Department and Sheriff’s Department, who have been told they cannot march in uniform and in support of the members of the Fire Department who are refusing to march out of solidarity with their public safety partners," she said in a statement on Monday.

"One of the central planks of the movement for better policing is a demand that the people who serve in uniform better represent the communities they are policing," she continued. "We can’t say, ‘We want more Black officers,’ or ‘We want more LGBTQ officers,’ and then treat those officers with disrespect when they actually step up and serve."

Earlier in the day, the San Francisco Officers Pride Alliance, an LGBT+ group, as well as LGBT+ sheriff’s deputies and the city fire department all said they wouldn’t march at Pride unless police could do so in full uniform.

"The San Francisco Pride Committee has asked the LGBTQ+ peace officers to go back in the closet," the agencies and groups said in a joint statement. "While we may not be able to march with our communities, we will still be here, working to keep you safe because that is what we have sworn to do.”

Suzanne Ford, San Francisco Pride’s interim director, told the San Francisco Chronicle “there is no equivalence” to asking officers to go back into the closet, noting that they’d be welcome to wear shirts or other clothing identifying them as police.

“We didn’t ask anyone to hide, or not to denote who they were,” she said. “We just did not want full uniforms, out of harm reduction to marginalized members of our community.”

There hasn’t been a full in-person Pride Parade in the city since 2019 due to the pandemic, and in 2020, organisers decided not to allow fully uniformed, off-duty police to march in the event following the murder of George Floyd by officers in Minneapolis.

Even before Mr Floyd’s killing set off nationwide protests, the LGBT+ community has been experiencing—and fighting back against—police abuse.

LGBT+ people are nearly four-times more likely to be victims of violent crime, according to one recent study, and many feel afraid to call police for help. Another 2014 survey of LGBT+ people and those living with HIV found that 73 per cent had experienced contact with police within the last five years, and more than a fifth of them reported hostile attitudes, with another 14 per cent noting verbal assault. Trans people and people of colour experienced such harassment in even greater numbers, the study foud. These patterns continue for LGBT+ people behind bars as well, research shows.

It’s a fact that’s long been known in San Francisco as well. In 1966, three years before the famous Stonewall riot in New York, a group of trans women fed up with police mistreatment rioted against officers at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a popular all-night restaurant and gathering place for LGBT+ people.

“These ladies took the bullets for us,” Donna Personna, a performer and activist who attended the restaurant as a teen, told The Guardian. “Everyone in our community stands on their shoulders.”

The conversation around policing and Pride has been hotly contested across the country.

In New York, organisers banned officers from participating as a group in the annual parade until at least 2025, and the NYPD has been asked to stay a block away from the edge of all in-person events.

The decision proved just as controversial as the one in San Francisco, with people noting both the police resistance legacy of Stonewall, and the strides made by New York’s LGBT+ officers, who successfully sued for the right to march as a group in uniform 1996.

Some, like then-New York mayor Bill de Blasio, called the decision a “mistake.”

“Officers who are members of the LGBT community [want] to march and express their pride and their solidarity with the community and their desire to keep changing the NYPD and changing the city,” he said at a press conference at the time. “That’s something I think should be embraced.”

The persistent presence of police at Pride in New York also led veteran LGBT+ organisers to found Reclaime Pride Coalition, a group that hosts its own events, feeling that the corporatised mainstream Pride Parade in New York has drifted “too far from the spirt of the Stonewall Rebellion, and miles away from achieving societal equity for queer and trans people.”

One of their slogans is, ““No corps, no cops, no bs!”

In Boston, meanwhile, there won’t be a large-scale Pride Parade at all in 2022, after the group that organises it decided in 2021 to dissolve itself, after facing criticism that the reportedly all-white board of directors had ignored the voices of people of colour and trans people.

“It is clear to us that our community needs and wants change without the involvement of Boston Pride,” the board said in its statement at the time. “We have heard the concerns of the QTBIPOC community and others,” the statement continued, referring to queer and trans people of color. “We care too much to stand in the way. Therefore, Boston Pride is dissolving. There will be no further events or programming planned, and the board is taking steps to close down the organization.”

For much of the 20th century, police were used to enforce blatantly anti-LGBT+ laws about relationships, gender presentation, and often violently raided queer gathering spaces. Now, in big cities across the US are reckoning with how to redefine that relationship as something better.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in