Pride My Ass!

by Claire and Deni

Queer radicals have been fighting for years to kick the cops out of Pride. From a 2019 “Cops and Corps Out of Pride” article in UltraViolet : “Gay Shame has put out a call to end all police participation in pride; all of it, NO police marching cutely in pride contingents, and particularly NO military style policing of the march in the name of protecting the queers. The police are not our friends and they don’t give a flying fuck about us…. LAGAI Queer Insurrection in the early 90’s carried a banner of a burning police car with the slogan  IT’S RIGHT TO REBEL directly behind the police contingent marching in pride.” A few years ago, local activists crashed the front of the SF parade with “Cops, Barricades, Corporations Out of our Parade” signs.

photo of banner

Nationally, San Diego Pride and Denver Pride are both prohibiting the police from marching. Sacramento and St. Louis banned the police but then reversed their decision.  In Seattle, which has two different Pride parades, the Capitol Hill Pride organizers banned police participation but the more mainstream Seattle pride group is still deciding. In 2017, Minneapolis/Twin Cities anti-violence program director Eva Wood at the Twin Cities LGBTQ-rights group OutFront, said she supported the organizers’ decision to ask police not to march after charges were dismissed against the cop who murdered Philando Castile. “I personally think they made the right call,” Wood said. “Specifically, the queer and trans people of color reached out to us saying cops in uniform at Pride might make white people feel safe, but not us.” Since the cop murder of George Floyd and international uprisings against that, Minneapolis Pride organizers decided to ban cops but then the lesbian Chief of Police pushed to meet with the committee and it was decided to eliminate the police squad car at the beginning of the parade but allow uniformed police officers to participate in the parade. (Whaaaat? Go figure.)

This year, NYC’s Pride announced in May that cops and “corrections officers,” including the Gay Officers Action League, can’t participate in the march until at least 2025, and for all NYPD to stay a block away from any in-person events, including the march. In San Francisco (still no official parade this year due to COVID), the “Pride Alliance” of the SFPD which marches in uniform has been banned from the parade just for this year and still might have booths.

The Aurora Colorado lesbian police chief was very distressed by the NY Pride decision and in a REALLY unclear on the concept statement said, “I look back at the Stonewall riots where the LGBTQ community stood up to the police for the treatment they were receiving at the time. How powerful it is now to see an officer march in a pride parade holding the hand of their partner, spouse, and significant other saying that was then, this is now. We are here to protect you.” Yeah, that would be the same Aurora PD that in August 2020 handcuffed and held a Black family at gunpoint due to cops’ mistake about a stolen car. In January, it was announced that no charges were being filed against these cops. But it’s probably good enough that the police chief said at the time that she was “heartbroken”  about the incident.  Oh, and she’s managed to maintain support from the Aurora cop union…

The New York Times was SO upset by the decision to kick the cops out of NY Pride that they even wrote an editorial against it, saying that it was politicizing the Pride celebration. In a response, J. Bryan Lowder in Slate said: “The Times editorial board believes that banning queer cops from marching in uniform is political, that tying police violence to actual police is a politicized move detached from the harm that actual victims have endured. And this is inappropriate, you see, because Pride is a “celebration,” a joyful party where “politics” are in poor taste. I’ll allow that that’s what Pride is for some—many, even. A mere celebration. But for others, Pride is meaningless without politics. Pride is political.”

UV readers know well the Stonewall origins of queers fighting back against the cops. CNN’s article about Pride/cops quoted Miss Majors, Stonewall trans activist, about why she is historically against cops at Pride events: “At the time, just to be transgender was against the law. Wear a dress — go straight to jail. Or, ‘You’re crazy,’ so we’re going to take you to the mental hospital,” Miss Major writes in an excerpt shared with CNN. “They’ve been beating us the f*** up, and continue to do so. And showing everybody else how to beat us up and kill us. That’s where their loyalty lies.”

Referring back to 2017 when Columbus, Ohio protesters were beaten and arrested for blocking the parade for a moment of silence against the murder of Philando Castile and violence against trans women of color, Andrea Ritchie, lawyer and author of “Invisible No More: Police Violence against Black Women and Women of Color” said, “Literally you’re having a protest against police violence at which police are committing violence.” Ritchie was on-call legal support at NYC Pride for 10 years, and she said she’s witnessed police violence — such as arrests, macing or beatings — at Pride every single year. “It doesn’t matter whether the cop that’s administering that violence is queer, or Black, or brown,” Ritchie told CNN. “No one should be experiencing that violence.”

In SF, the Pride decision was spurred on by the 2019 cop attack against anti-police and anti-corporate protesters who blocked the parade route for almost an hour. One of those protesters, Taryn Saldivar, has filed a federal lawsuit against SF and law enforcement officers for the SFPD actions. In a statement to the BAR newspaper, Alex U. Inn, longtime community activist and community parade grand marshal in 2017 said the Pride organization is “FINALLY! ‘LISTENING TO BLACK VOICES!”  Inn wrote, “It took them long enough. Carolyn [Wysinger, SF Pride board president] is trying to make it look like it’s her idea and something new that they’ve come up with when many of us REAL activists, especially our BIPOC activists, have been saying this for many, many, many years. No police presence at PEOPLE’S MARCH 2020 was the answer to SF Pride’s ignorance and their continuation of putting Black lives at harm.”

Inn has said that the 2nd annual People’s March and Rally down Polk Street to City Hall (following the route of the first “gay-in” in 1970 that grew to become the official San Francisco Pride parade), would be held on Sunday, June 27. You can be sure the cops are not welcome there. But definitely bring your radical politics!

Author: lagai

LAGAI-Queer Insurrection is one of the oldest radical queer liberation groups in the U.S. We publish UltraViolet, a more or less bimonthly newspaper, which is mailed free of charge to over 1500 people, including over 800 prisoners. Our website is www.lagai.org.

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