This decision comes after feedback from organizations like National Black Justice Coalition, DapperQ, the Anti-Violence Project, Compass Strategies Consulting, and advocate Devin Norelle. These groups pointed out how threatening police presence can be to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
What Pride Without the Police Will Entail
Their response to activist pressure is to take the low road by preventing their fellow community members from celebrating their identities and honoring the shared legacy of the Stonewall Riots. It is important to note here that no members of the community are banned from participating — officers can still march but not in groups — and the legacy of the Stonewall Riots was a rebellion against police. Last year, 51 years after the initial Stonewall Uprisings, NYPD antagonized and attacked peaceful LGBTQ+ protesters , hitting them with mopeds and batons, not far from Stonewall Inn. They also pepper-sprayed the group en masse.
What Is the History of Police and the LGBTQ+ Community?
Stonewall Inn Riots
The Society for Human Rights
However, Stonewall wasn’t the first example of police clashing with the LGBTQ+ community. One of the first times this happened was in Chicago. The Society for Human Rights was created by German immigrant Henry Gerber who was inspired by a similar group in Berlin. After Gerber formed this group with other gay men, they were arrested without a warrant. The claims were obscenity, and the group ended up disbanding due to police involvement.
There was another clash in 1959 between the police and the LGBTQ+ community, and there were other incidents in between. They tried to arrest various patrons at Coopers Donuts, which created widespread attention. Coopers Donuts was a popular spot for the police during the day, but it was a common spot for transgender women to gather during the evening. They arrested these patrons simply for spending time there, even though they committed no crimes.
Law enforcement asked for identification from various patrons in the shop, which was a means of harassing LGBTQ+ people at the time. Before any arrests happened, patrons erupted in anger and started throwing things like donuts, coffee, and paper plates at the police. The police then left and returned with backup, blocking off the street for the entire night as riots escalated.
How Police Clashes with the LGBTQ+ Community Today
There are many more historical examples of police clashing with the LGBTQ+ community. Police violence towards LGBTQ+ individuals continues to this day. Even though Pride is supposed to be a safe space, police have caused it to feel unsafe for many LGBTQ+ people.
An 18-year-old transgender woman, ReeAnna Segin, was arrested and thrown into a men’s prison earlier in 2018 after trying to burn a “Blue Lives Matter.” She did so in protest at Philadelphia Pride, and flag-burning is a recognized form of protest.
The Black Pride 4
The Black Pride 4, a group of black queer activists, were arrested in Columbus, Ohio. The action took place at the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival and Parade. These activists peacefully disrupted the event to bring attention to the acquittal of the Minnesota police officer who killed Philando Castile the year before.
They intended to raise awareness “about the violence against and erasure of black and brown queer and trans people, in particular the lack of space for black and brown people at pride festivals.” They also aimed to bring attention to the high number of trans women who were murdered in 2017.
Some Stats on Police Violence Against LGBTQ+ Folks
All in all, there are countless examples of LGBTQ+ folks experiencing violence at the hands of the police. According to a report from the National Coalition of Anti-violence Programs, many LGBTQ+ people don’t even report violence they experience to the police. When these individuals reported violence they experienced, 66% said that police were indifferent or hostile to them. The same report shows that black LGBTQ+ people are three times as likely to have excessive force used against them. by police than their non-black LGBTQ+ counterparts.
According to Heritage of Pride spokesperson Dan Dimant in conversation with CNN:
There’s always been aggression by law enforcement and it’s been an issue in the community for years. The events of last year, with protests over George Floyd, there have been a lot of run-ins with the NYPD, so we began to think long and hard about this decision.
Last year’s Pride: The 50th-anniversary event of last year’s Pride in NYC was canceled and attended virtually due to the pandemic. This year the theme is “The Fight Continues.”
More details of the event are still being decided among event organizers and New York City officials. Dimant confirmed that they expect to have some in-person events in addition to virtual presentations.
Read more: A Complete Guide to Queer Pride Flags