“Why do some people object to police in uniform at Pride events? Don’t all large events have a police presence?”
“Why are some queer people boycotting Pride events?”
Well, we have to start off by looking at the history of the Pride movement. In the 1960s, the police harassed gay and lesbian bars (there wasn’t a defined transgender community – they often called themselves drag queens or butch lesbians), attacking patrons and arresting them, and charging them with indecency crimes if they weren’t wearing clothes that matched their sex. Pride began as a riot against police – when police raided the Stonewall Inn on June of 1969, the patrons fought back, sparking riots across the city that lasted for days.
In the year following the riots, gays and lesbians organized more visibly than ever before, starting LGBTQ advocacy groups across the nation.
The first “Pride” march was held the following June, to commemorate those riots – the city of New York first tried to charge the group organizing the march over a million dollars for the permits, and then tried to charge them a fee for a police presence for safety – it took a New York Supreme Court ruling to get the city to withdraw those charges, as all groups with a permit may receive police protection.
The Pride marches began as Gay Liberation or Gay Freedom marches. Over the years, the “Gay” was dropped, because it’s a movement for all people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, and the events changed focus, from commemorating the Stonewall Riots to celebrating the existence of LGBTQ+ lives.
Fast forward to now: Pride events are often organized as a party, but there are a growing number of LGBTQ folks who see that there is still fighting to do, and want to honor the roots of the Pride movement as an anti-establishment riot. They believe that having an active police presence at Pride events dishonors the history of Pride as a fight against the police. There are, of course, people who recognize that the fight is still going on, who *also* want to party. That’s valid – people fighting for their existence deserve to celebrate their own lives. But Pride is an event that largely caters to white gay men, the group most likely to say things like “everyone has the right to get married – we won!” or “there’s no racial discrimination in the gay community.” Bleh.
Plus this year, Philadelphia Pride gave a pretty big slap in the face to the history of Pride as anti-police riots – they invited an LGBT police group to act as grand marshals for the Pride parade. After public outcry, the group declined the invitation, but it speaks to the priorities and values of Philly Pride Presents that they issued that invitation in the first place.
Now to change focus a little: in the past several years, white people have finally gotten a chance to see how racist and violent the establishment of police have always been. Police attack and beat people in marginalized communities, *especially* communities of color. They do not “keep the peace” at white supremacy marches – they attack Black Lives Matter protesters, and protect the people holding the guns. They act in accordance with immigration control, even in sanctuary cites.
Plus, police will always be a tool for those in power, NOT those in marginalized groups. Our government is an anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ government. Police, as an institution, are not here to protect marginalized folks.
Pride has become a big enough event that it has to be registered with the city. Or at least, it has to be registered with the city in order to get all of the proper permits to march, to have vendors, to use Penn’s Landing, etc. So what I’m really saying is, the Pride *party* has to get permits with the city of Philadelphia, which means that they legally get a police presence. But prioritizing the commodification of LGBTQ existence over the liberation of LGBTQ lives means that a number of people disagree with the priorities of Philly Pride Presents, and are therefore boycotting the official event. Especially in Philly (where I live), where they thought inviting an official group of police, in uniform, to be grand marshals of the parade was an appropriate move.
As an aside, not all Pride events are in cooperation with local police forces – the Philly Dyke March has never marched with a permit. It’s a point of pride (ha) for some of their organizers that they don’t actively work with the Philadelphia Police Dept for their march.
So, there’s your context for why there’s resistance to a police presence at Pride events. There are also further complaints against Pride events, like accessibility and corporate sponsorship from companies that don’t do anything else to improve LGBTQ lives or rights.
All of this being said, it’s still an event by queer folx, for queer folx. It’s not a perfect event, for a huge number of reasons, but it’s not open to being attacked by allies. We’ll run our own events, and we’ll clean up when there are problems within our communities. So keep that in mind while reading this – it may be flawed, but sometimes it’s the best we have.