(SAN FRANCISCO) — Police will be barred from wearing their uniforms at the June 26 Pride march in San Francisco, one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the world. Instead, officers are being advised to march in T-shirts that represent their local law enforcement agency.
The decision has caused a heated debate in the city. However, the discourse stretches across the country, as cities reconsider the presence of police at LGBTQ-led events.
Last year, New York City’s Pride parade organizers banned officers from marching in the parade for the first time in decades.
Police presence was reduced at the event, as organizers say they are reckoning with the legacy of police brutality and abuse against LGBTQ people that the community says continues today.
The heated relationship between San Francisco police and others in the LGBTQ community came to a head in 2019 when a protest on the parade route ended with people being arrested, shoved and allegedly injured by police.
“Some members of our community, the presence of the police in the parade is difficult for them, given their history with the police department,” San Francisco Pride Director Suzanne Ford has said on the impact of the march on the community. “So we want to honor and make sure that we protect and make people feel safe.”
The difficult relationship between police and members of the LGBTQ community has a longstanding history. In 1969, a police raid on patrons at The Stonewall Inn in New York City led to an uprising that gave rise to the gay-rights movement. The bar is now a National Historic Landmark. However, that raid was just one of many examples of police violence against the LGBTQ community, according to historians.
There was a time when every state in America criminalized same-sex sexual behavior. That changed in 1962 and, in 2003, the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas led to the nationwide decriminalization of sexual activity between same-sex couples.
San Francisco officers have responded to the uniform ban by collectively refusing to march in the parade, which will take place on June 26, 2022.
In a statement, the San Francisco Police Department said it “supports the decision of our LGBTQ+ officers” but will still be in attendance for security reasons.
“The San Francisco Police Department is committed to not only serving the diverse communities of San Francisco, but to embracing the diversity of our members,” the statement read. “We recognize the struggles that our LGBTQ+ members have overcome, both within the department as well as outside the department.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed denounced the event organizers’ decision to bar police uniforms from the parade. She said she loves the parade, but will refuse to join the festivities if parade organizers don’t reverse their decision, according to a statement sent to ABC News
“I’ve made this very hard decision in order to support those members of the LGBTQ community who serve in uniform, in our Police Department and Sheriff’s Department, who have been told they cannot march in uniform, and in support of the members of the Fire Department who are refusing to march out of solidarity with their public safety partners,” Breed said.
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