Pride parades across the world have become firmly established events marked by celebration, activism, courage, and inspiration.
It has taken decades for these events to evolve into participatory parades involving all members of society, including politicians and employees from all levels of government, members of the various faith communities, and representatives of host city police forces, often in uniform.
But in the U.S. and Canada, that latter element—the police—has become a subject of disagreement and debate at this year’s pride parades. Cities like Minneapolis, MN, Cincinnati, OH, and Seattle, WA, among others, have witnessed shocking injustices to black communities because of unjustified and unpunished police killings. In response, several Black Lives Matter chapters are taking action at this year’s pride parades to call attention to injustices and raise their voices.
Organizers of Minneapolis’ Ashley Rukes Pride Parade, for example, found themselves in a dispute in recent days over whether or not to allow uniformed police officers to participate.
After a jury in Ramsey County, MN, found officer Jeronimo Yanez “not guilty” earlier this month in the shooting death of Philando Castile, which prompted nationwide outrage, pride parade organizers decided not to invite uniformed police officers to march. That sparked criticism, including from Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau, who accused parade organizers of fighting discrimination with discrimination, the Star Tribune reported.
Organizers capitulated, re–inviting police officers to participate in the popular parade, which draws about 350,000 attendees each year. But on Sunday, Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted the parade minutes after it had started, chanting, “No justice, no peace, no pride in police,” the newspaper reported. Some protesters held signs saying, “Justice for Philando.”
The demonstrators then read a list of demands and sat down for several minutes, stalling the parade’s progress. A short while later, protesters allowed the parade to continue and marched a couple of blocks ahead of it.
The idea of preventing uniformed police officers from participating in pride parades, while controversial, is not unheard of. In Toronto, the city’s pride organization decided last January to ban police floats and uniformed police officers from participating in this year’s parade. The ban followed a list of demands delivered by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, 680 News reported.
Instead, a group of 50 Toronto police officers traveled to New York to participate in that city’s pride parade, invited by the Gay Officers Action League of New York.
Black Lives Matter protesters also held a sit–in in New York City on Sunday and disrupted the parade in Seattle.
The city of Cincinnati, OH, also is reeling from the recent mistrial of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, who shot and killed unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose during a 2015 traffic stop. Protesters there discussed intervening in Saturday’s pride parade.
Instead, Clifton United Methodist Church pastor David Meredith invited the city’s Black Lives Movement members to participate in the pride parade, according to Cincinnati.com.
Meredith had joined Black Lives Matter in a protest the previous day over the Tensing mistrial. Several dozen Black Lives Matter protesters agreed to Meredith’s proposal and marched along the parade route with his group. Onlookers were supportive by applauding, yelling, and raising clenched fists, Cincinnati.com reported.
“Anyone who is oppressed doesn’t want anyone else to be oppressed,” Mona Jenkins, a Black Lives Matter steering committee member, told the newspaper.
Los Angeles seems to have been the most proactive in finding middle ground, turning the city’s annual pride parade this year into a #ResistMarch.
“The LGBTQ community is lending its iconic rainbow flag to any person who feels under threat, no matter your status, DREAMers, women who care about reproductive health, people of color and people of faith,” #ResistMarch founder Brian Pendleton said earlier this month.