Pride and The Police

*singing*

It’s the most wonderful timeee of the yearrrr!

No, it’s not Christmas (which is also lit), but it’s Pride month. The one month of the year (honestly, Pride celebrations start in April and go through Labor Day, but the official Pride month is June) where LGBTQA+ identifying folks come together and aim up our queerness to paramount levels. There are parades and panels discussions and festivals and parties and film festivals and vigils for our fallen and brunches, and a bunch of other events centered around celebrating, educating, uplifting queer folks in cities all around the world.

I know, on the surface, Pride may seem like it’s all rainbows and jockstraps in this dancery, but Pride was birthed from protest. The first Pride parades took place on June 28, 1970, the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The police raid of the Stonewall Inn was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the LGBTQ+ community in NYC. Queer folks were often unwelcome and felt unsafe in most places and spaces, but one place we could go are to bars and clubs. They became our safe spaces (and they continue to be). Police raids of gay/queer bars and clubs in the 1960s were standard, they happened on a very regular basis. Queer people were socially, legally, and systematically disenfranchised. 

After decades of harassment, arrest, imprisonment, job loss, military discharge, invasion of privacy and safe spaces, police brutality, and sometimes death for simply being queer, the police raid of the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, when an unwarranted police raid sparked a community riot (and several other riots taking place the following days) is what know to be the Stonewall riots. Arguably, the jump off to modern queer liberation movements.  

So, in essence, we celebrate Pride because of the resistance against violence and mistreatment brought against queer people, especially poor + people of color, at the hands of law enforcement.

So imagine the confusion when headlines as such come about:

Screenshot_20170608-162454

A little backstory, the Black Lives Matter chapter in Toronto protested at Toronto Pride last year with a brief sit in. They presented a list of demands to Pride Toronto officials, one of which was to ban uniformed presence and police floats from the parade.  

Which is understandable, actually makes complete sense, being that the police have a documented history of over-policing the communities that the parade is supposed to be celebrating.

Pride Toronto’s officials voted in favor of BLMTO’s request, and as a result, Toronto police decided to not participate in this year’s celebration. Pride NYC then extends the invitation for Canadian cops to march in their parade.

(Which is uniquely ironic being that Stonewall went down in NYC)

Police at Pride doesn’t make sense to me for two reasons:

  1. As previously stated, we’re celebrating the past and present resistance against law enforcement, so having the happy-go-lucky policeman in full uniform with badge, gun, and all strutting alongside the very people on the receiving end of injustice seems a little (a lot) disingenuous and counterintuitive.
  2. It completely ignores the very tension between communities of color (especially Black ones) and the institution of law enforcement. Not that we need a study, but studies have shown that QPOC (queer people of color) have experienced police violence and injustice at a higher rate than their white counterparts.

I, personally, hope that Pride boards across the country would follow the lead of BLMTO + Pride Toronto and take into consideration the past and present experiences of queer, especially QPOC, with law enforcement and examine the capacity in which police departments persist in Pride celebrations in the future.

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