On June 28, 1969, the New York City Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a known gay club. Homosexuality and cross dressing were illegal at that time, so with a warrant the police entered the club, hauling patrons and employees out of the building. Instead of dispersing into the night, patrons and neighbors stood outside the bar and would do so for 6 days in protest of police harassment of the LGBT community.
Three years prior to Stonewall, the first Transgender uprising happened in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. The Tenderloin neighborhood was the only place for Transgender people to be in public, as many gay bars would deny them entry. Since cross dressing was illegal, police would often use the presence of a Transgender person to close or raid gay bars. The Compton’s Cafeteria riots occurred in 1966 after a cop attempted to arrest a Transgender woman, and she threw her drink in the officer’s face.
Pride was never meant to be a friendship-bracelet-making slumber party for LGBT+ and police; pride was born in the midst of police brutality and human rights infringements placed on the community by the government. Furthermore, these issues are not only issues of the past and that is why many members of the LGBT+ community are reluctant to let Police come in uniform and march in Pride.
According to a National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report, police discrimination is still an issue within the LGBT+ community. 66% who reported violence to the police said the police were indifferent or hostile. Black LGBTQ survivors were nearly 3 times more likely to experience excessive force from police than survivors who did not identify as Black.
Pride is meant to be an intersectional safe space for LGBT+ people and this means we must take into consideration the other identities present at pride. Why should we continue to let uniformed police march at Pride when outside of pride the safety of POC and other identifying LGBT+ people are jeopardized or dismissed?
In Toronto, uniformed officers have been outvoted from the parade. Police officers themselves can still march but they must be in civilian clothing. Uniformed officers were first banned from Pride Toronto in 2017 for concerns of racial profiling, after Black Lives Matter halted the parade in 2016 and suggested that the uniformed officers should be excluded from the parade. Pride in Calgary has also taken the same stance.
The movement to stop uniformed officers coming to pride is not meant to be divisive, it is meant to ensure that everyone feels safe at Pride. It is not to say that Police cannot march, because they totally can; However, without uniforms, guns and police vehicles to erase the power dynamic in a space that historically was not made for them.
Stay safe and have a happy Pride!