Pride month is special: it’s liberating and it’s chaotic in the best way possible. Its history is rich, heart-wrenching and terrifying but welcoming; though not to those who have been the oppressors of the LGBT community for so long. In short, Pride was founded by throwing bricks at cops for arresting queer people. A police presence in this community space does not make queer and trans people feel anything but discomfort and fear. There’s no room for cops at Pride.
Now, let me clarify. The police are needed to control the crowd, keep people safe when there’s such a huge gathering of people in one area and they should be there to do their jobs. They just shouldn’t participate in uniform.
In 1969, the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn. These raids on gay bars were not uncommon at the time but what made this raid unique was that the bar fought back. Stonewall was a rebellion against the police, carried on the backs of transgender women and femmes of colour, protesting the police’s oppression of the queer community. The LGBTQ+ community still faces discrimination at the hands of the police when it comes to Pride from arrests and beatings to being met with tear gas and rubber pellets.
When you’re white, straight and cisgender, it’s easy to forget what the uniformed police officers who dance on parade floats do on the other 364 days of the year. For the rest, forgetting is difficult. For many, the sight of a uniformed police officer is enough to cause extreme panic and this experience is far more pronounced among people of colour, which provides an explanation as to why Pride feels so damn white. Several organisations advocating for queer people of colour have protested this arrangement.
Most recently, in Toronto, a group of Black Lives Matter protesters managed to rightfully interrupt the Pride parade, demanding that police floats be removed. Organizers initially agreed but quickly backed down. The Toronto police force continues to have a disturbing hold on racism. This is what a lot of us white LGBTQ+ folk don’t get. Our whiteness shields us from many of the realities of police brutality. Not all cops are bad, but the police as an institution is extremely oppressive and history shows us that they have never been a friend to the LGBT community and never been a friend to people of color. We constantly see people like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and so many others whose only crime was being black.
Pride started as a protest and we should be celebrating those dissenting against justice, not contributing to their oppression. Allowing a police officer to march at Pride, wearing the uniform, promoting the uniform, gear, weapons and vehicles used to systematically discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, should not stand. If you’re a queer/ally cop and you want to participate, leave the uniform at home. Meet this community on an equal power balance. Allow the community to thrive and celebrate Pride for the sheer reasons it can, because the Stonewall riots allow us to. No cops at pride.
Photo: Katy Blackwood [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons