June has finally arrived, and for many, it represents the celebration of everything LGBTQ+. Rainbow flags will be worn proudly, and parades will be thrown in celebration. Then, amongst the celebration, attention will still be drawn to the injustices still existing within the community.
While some will celebrate victories already achieved, others are looking to the parades as a form of political activism. In recent years there has been a call from many members of the LGBTQ+ for police to be excluded from pride events. Their aim is to create a safe environment for the parades, away from the targeting and harassment minorities face every day.
Historically, police in the United States have been prone to discriminatory practices towards minorities with the LGBTQ+ community being no exception. In fact, in 1969 the first gay rights movements were born out of the Stonewall Riots – a retaliation to a police raid on a gay bar. With the determination of this new rebellion came deeply reformist beliefs and anti-police sentiments. To this day the LGBTQ+ movement holds those values at their core, as seen by their reluctance to welcome law enforcement into the parades
One of the most outspoken critics of police involvement in LGBTQ+ events is the NO JUSTICE NO PRIDE organization. The group exists “to end the LGBT movements complicity with systems of oppression that further marginalize queer and trans individuals.” The organization calls for the complete ban of all law enforcement members from pride parades, as well as the removal of all corporate sponsorship from events.
In 2017, the group led an effort to stop the Capital Pride Parade from proceeding by blocking off a street. The effort caused a long delay but the procession was eventually rerouted. Their idea of achieving justice may be valiant in theory, but in practice, it may be impossible.
Through refusing to acknowledge recent attempts to change policing tactics and attitudes by banning uniformed officers, the incentive to change is lessened. It desensitizes change. The forces that compel people to change their ways will slacken if it is perceived that their efforts do not matter.
On the opposing side, there are those who vehemently wish to increase police security at Pride events. This comes in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting which took the lives of 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. The fear that future Pride events could be targeted is easily understood after such a tragedy. One of the fundamental stances of this argument is not to accept current police misdeeds, but instead to allow police to protect a community which they’ve failed to protect before.
Another question that must be addressed is the actual logistics of removing uniformed police from parades. To remove all police would be to remove the traffic cops who direct the parade, without whom the parade could not exist. Having a free service to direct traffic around the event, while not particularly exciting, is a highly valuable asset. Removing them in attempt to do so yourself could prove dangerous and timely to the progress of the parade.
While police still have a significant amount to correct before they are to be trusted by minorities such as the LGBTQ+ community, removing them entirely from events is not the solution we are looking for. If change is desired, fix the problem, don’t adapt to live with it.