SF mayor, gay supe join police in skipping Pride parade

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Monday May 23, 2022
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Mayor London Breed, shown here waving at spectators during the 2019 San Francisco Pride parade, will not participate this year if the Pride board maintains its ban on uniformed police officers marching. Photo: Rick Gerharter  <br>
Mayor London Breed, shown here waving at spectators during the 2019 San Francisco Pride parade, will not participate this year if the Pride board maintains its ban on uniformed police officers marching. Photo: Rick Gerharter

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey have joined the city's LGBTQ first responders in saying they will not march in the Pride parade if organizers continue to prohibit police from marching in uniform.

Earlier Monday, members of the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, and the San Francisco Fire Department announced that, following 18 months of discussion with SF Pride, the organization that oversees the massive, yearly event, they had been unable to come to a mutually acceptable agreement about the presence of uniformed officers participating in the parade. Consequently, the first responders would not be marching in the parade if they weren't allowed to do so in uniform.

Breed has regularly taken part in the parade and has been known for her elaborate float entries in it since she served on the Board of Supervisors. She said it was not an easy decision to likely not participate this year.

"However, if the Pride board does not reverse its decision, I will join our city public safety departments that are not participating in the Pride parade," she stated. "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."

The board of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee announced in September 2020 that uniformed San Francisco police officers would be banned from the parade beginning in 2021. However, the COVID pandemic prevented a Pride parade last year so the 2022 in-person parade on June 26 is the first time since the ban was announced that it would take effect.

Suzanne Ford, interim executive director of SF Pride, was disappointed with Breed's decision.

"We're very disappointed," she told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview. "The mayor's part of Pride, and I hope the Pride Alliance changes its mind and the mayor will participate in Pride."

Calling the mayor a friend to SF Pride, she noted, however, any decision to stay or change the course would depend upon the 10-member board of directors.

Dorsey, who was tapped May 9 by Breed to fill the seat vacated by now-assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), also criticized the decision by SF Pride in a statement released just before the mayor released hers. Prior to becoming a supervisor, Dorsey was a high-ranking SFPD civilian, working on strategic communications with Chief William Scott and part of his command staff.

"All San Franciscans share a compelling interest in solving our public safety staffing crisis in ways that attract the most diverse and qualified pool of candidates we can," Dorsey stated. "We can do that by showcasing our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in our police, fire and sheriff's departments. But a policy of exclusion, which prohibits LGBTQ+ first responders and allies from marching in uniform, sends exactly the wrong message at a time when we can ill afford to do so.

"I welcome the opportunity to meet with Pride board members to request that they reconsider their position," Dorsey added. "I'm also hopeful my fellow LGBTQ+ community members will express their support for a more inclusive approach, which celebrates our community's uniformed first responders and encourages more queer candidates to pursue public safety careers right here in San Francisco."

Local politicians, both LGBTQ and straight, have been a mainstay of the city's Pride parade for decades, either entering their own contingents or walking with that of another elected official or group. Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) told the B.A.R. Monday that he wouldn't be withdrawing from this year's parade.

"I'll be marching in the Pride parade. I'm looking forward to it," he wrote in a texted reply.

The city's firefighters, who announced they would not participate in the parade in solidarity with the SFPO Pride Alliance, welcomed the mayor's statement.

"The Fire Department and its relative affinity groups are proud to work under a leader such as Mayor London Breed who is supporting our community's LGBTQ+ public safety members and their decision, embracing our long-time history of honoring diversity, equity, and inclusiveness," SFFD Public Information Officer Lieutenant Jonathan Baxter wrote in an email response to the mayor's announcement.

Breed was further critical of the Pride board's decision, noting the changes undergone by the city's public safety agencies as a result of the presence of LGBTQ members in uniform.

"These members of our LGBTQ public safety community do all this work while also leading the push for change in the law enforcement community at large, and in their own departments," Breed stated. "These are police officers, sheriff's deputies, and firefighters who wear their uniforms truly with pride — in part because of the challenges they had to personally overcome, and in part because of the progress they've seen in their own departments. Their presence in uniform serves as a message to others across the country that San Francisco values diversity and inclusion in our public safety departments, and in our city."

The mayor added that her decision not to participate in the parade did not lessen the city's commitment to the Pride celebration itself.

"I'm hopeful that the members of the Pride board will change their position on this matter, but even if they don't, we will still celebrate Pride throughout the month of June in San Francisco," she stated. "I will raise the Pride flag over City Hall and participate in numerous other Pride activities that are happening. And I will remain committed to advancing policies that serve the LGBTQ community, building on programs like creating the nation's first guaranteed income program for the Transgender people and funding our efforts to get to zero new HIV infections. I will continue to elevate LGBTQ leaders to lead our city, as I have done in appointing the heads of several city departments, including the Fire Department, and, most recently, the newest member of the Board of Supervisors."

That said, she also emphasized that she understood the reasons for public distrust of law enforcement, based upon her own experiences growing up in a community that historically has had a very difficult relationship with the police.

"I grew up in a community, ravaged by violence, that for the most part didn't trust the police," she continued. "Police violence was as real then as it is in communities all across the nation today. That pain is real. I understand that pain. But I also understood the need for police to come when you called them. When an old lady was getting robbed, or a kid was being abused. And I grew into someone that believes that reducing violence, and building trust, requires bringing law enforcement into the community, into our lives, into our events and activities."

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