Police say they won't march in San Francisco Pride Parade

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 30: Isabel Samaras fans herself at Civic Center Plaza during the San Francisco Pride parade in San Francisco, Sunday, June 30, 2019. Organizers of the 2020 celebration are still aiming to hold the 50th anniversary event on June 27, 2020, but admit that the ongoing coronavirus outbreak may alter that plan. (Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
Isabel Samaras fans herself at Civic Center Plaza during the 2019 San Francisco Pride Parade. (Gabrielle Lurie / San Francisco Chronicle)

San Francisco police said they will not march in this year's Pride Parade in protest over organizers' new decision not to allow officers to wear their uniform during the annual LGBTQ event.

The SFPD Officers Pride Alliance announced the decision Monday. Firefighters and sheriff's deputies said they also would not march during the June 26 parade down Market Street.

The San Francisco Police Department will provide security for the event, according to a news release from the Officers Pride Alliance. The group says it has been in discussions with the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee about incorporating uniformed officers into the event, but could not reach a compromise with the group that oversees the parade.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Monday that she too would be skipping this year's Pride Parade in response to the policy.

“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 in a statement.

The controversy stems from 2019 when anti-corporate protesters blocked the parade route and were arrested and allegedly assaulted by police. Conversations about the incident became tense in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and the parade organizers decided that to make community members feel safe, uniformed police would not be allowed to march in the 2021 parade. That parade ultimately did not take place and several other events were held around the city.

The 2022 Pride Parade will be the first where the new policy will be in effect.

On Monday, the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance said the committee overseeing the parade left the officers with little choice in the matter.

"We shared stories of the courage it took to serve as both a peace officer and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. The board of SF Pride offered only one option: that LGBTQ+ peace officers hang up their uniforms, put them back in the closet, and march in civilian attire," the group said in their statement.

"Let us be clear: this committee would not order the leather community to wear polyester at the parade. This committee would not order the drag community to wear flannel," they said in their statement. "But they have told us, peace officers, that if we wear our uniforms, we may not attend."

Suzanne Ford, interim executive director of SF Pride, told the weekly newspaper Bay Area Reporter that the policy was not an outright ban against police to participate in the parade.

"This is not a ban; this is merely an invitation to participate with a condition attached," Ford said.

Police can participate in the march with T-shirts that state they are law enforcement, but uniforms will not be allowed, said Ford.

Breed said the decision is counterintuitive to the goal of having officers "better represent the communities they are policing."

"We can’t say, ‘we want more Black officers,’ or ‘We want more LGBTQ officers,’ and then treat those officers with disrespect when they actually step up and serve," Breed said in her statement Monday.

To many LGBTQ officers who work in the city, the decision feels like a ban.

"I would really like San Francisco Pride to embrace the values of San Francisco, the values of radical inclusion," Officer Kathryn Winters of the SFPD Officers Pride Alliance told KGO-TV in the Bay Area. "We want to be able to show the members of our community that there are people just like you who put on these uniforms every day and are out there to support, help, and protect you."

"There was a time in the San Francisco Police Department when you could not serve as open police officers," Winters said. "And certainly a time when you couldn't even dream of marching in Pride."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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