After SF Pride, police reach compromise, Mayor Breed, gay supe Dorsey to march in parade

  • by Eric Burkett and Cynthia Laird
  • Thursday June 2, 2022
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San Francisco Mayor London Breed raises the Pride flag during a June 2 ceremony at City Hall. Photo: Rick Gerharter
San Francisco Mayor London Breed raises the Pride flag during a June 2 ceremony at City Hall. Photo: Rick Gerharter

San Francisco Pride and LGBTQ police officers have reached a compromise for the upcoming parade that will see some personnel marching in uniform. Both the city's mayor and newly appointed gay supervisor will now march in the Parade.

The police chief and command staff of the San Francisco Police Department will be able to wear their uniforms while other officers will wear casual attire, according to a tweet Thursday afternoon by ABC7's Lyanne Melendez and the San Francisco Chronicle. The television station is this year's official Pride media sponsor and will be broadcasting live coverage of the parade.

According to the mayor's office, the casual attire could be SFPD branded polos or T-shirts.

SF Pride officials and the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance issued the following statement late Thursday afternoon.

"Pride grew out of conflicts between LGBTQ communities and police at Compton's Cafeteria and Stonewall Inn. Ever since then, we have attempted to bridge that divide. That is why we are grateful to have reached a compromise solution today. It shows everyone is working in the spirit of Pride to come together!" stated SFPD Officer Kathryn Winters with the officers Pride alliance, Carolyn Wysinger, board president of SF Pride, and Suzanne Ford, interim executive director of SF Pride.

"We have agreed that all first responders will march together in one contingent. Most law enforcement officers marching will be in casual dress. Police and fire department command staff will march in their class AA uniforms as regulated," the statement continued. "There will be a small number of LGBTQ officers in uniform providing security for the contingent.

"In addition to the agreement reached surrounding law enforcement officers marching in Pride, San Francisco Pride and the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance have also agreed to continue work that builds on the foundations laid by our conversations over the last two years. The San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance will work with Chief William Scott's office to reinvigorate the chief's LGBTQ Police Advisory Forum, working with San Francisco Pride to ensure that community members selected for the forum represent the diversity of San Francisco's LGBTQ+ community. San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance and San Francisco Pride, over the next year, will host a series of community discussions bringing together the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ officers. These discussions will take place in San Francisco LGBTQ+ communities in order to ensure that the forums are accessible to all," the statement concludes.

The compromise was announced at Mayor London Breed's ceremonial raising of the Pride flag on the balcony outside her office, overlooking the front entrance of City Hall.

"I have a very, very big happy announcement today," Breed said in a presentation following the flag raising. "I almost want to cry, I'm so happy. But I, along with our LGBTQ public safety officials will be marching in Pride this year."

At that point, the assembly comprising LGBTQ community leaders, members of SF Pride, law enforcement, and city officials burst into applause. The mayor continued, acknowledging that her decision not to march had probably hurt some people.

"I want to first apologize to the many members of the LGBTQ community who were hurt by the decision that I made to stand by our various public safety officials of the LGBTQ community. And I apologize for not also recognizing the hurt and pain that I know some feel as a result of their own interactions and engagements with law enforcement."

She called the compromise one all parties in the dispute could be proud of, adding "the understanding and respect from both sides is a symbol of love, bringing us together."

The compromise resulted from an almost impromptu discussion facilitated by a local restaurateur, Manny Yekutiel, a gay man who owns Manny's, a hybrid cafe and community space in the Mission district. Yekutiel, 31, also serves on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board.

Distressed by how the dispute between law enforcement and SF Pride seemed to be escalating, Yekutiel decided to offer his cafe as a place to meet. After calling representatives from both sides of the dispute last weekend, they agreed that Sunday to meet the evening of June 1 to further discuss the matter.

"I decided to reach out to both Suzanne Ford and Officer Winters and see if they can come here and see if we could work something out together in person," he said, referring to the interim executive director of SF Pride and a leader in the police pride alliance.

Yekutiel not only hosted the event, he said, but served as moderator.

"I asked the question at the end of this really beautiful conversation between the two of them where folks spent an hour sharing their experiences and their stories and their perspective on the issue," he said. "I asked them what they needed to see in order to make a compromise, what would a compromise look like to be able to get everyone to march together."

He added that "a compromise was proposed and in the room, it was not accepted, but it seemed that we were able to actually find a path forward that allowed officers to feel comfortable marching and, prior, to allow them there. And so I stopped in the middle of the conversation. I said, did this just happen? Is this OK with you? Is this OK with you?"

The conversation between the two sides continued the following day and wrapped up just hours before the flag-raising ceremony.

End of stalemate

The deal brings to an end a stalemate that started May 23 when members of the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance stated they would not participate in the parade because the board that oversees the Pride parade had instituted a policy whereby they could not march in uniform.

That policy, first adopted in September 2020, was because SF Pride board President Carolyn Wysinger and former SF Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez "concluded that in 2021 we cannot welcome the participation of the San Francisco Police Department's Pride Alliance — which is to say, uniformed SFPD officers marching as a Parade contingent."

The SF Pride leaders said the organization was "disappointed and frustrated" following a 2019 incident when police used force against anti-police and anti-corporate protesters who blocked the parade route for almost an hour.

Due to the COVID pandemic, this year is the first time the policy is being tested because there was no in-person Pride parade in 2021.

In last month's announcement, the police officers alliance was joined in solidarity by LGBTQ members of the San Francisco Fire Department and San Francisco Sheriff's Department. Breed and gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey then said they would skip the parade if SF Pride did not reverse its decision.

In a text to the B.A.R. Thursday, Dorsey wrote "Yes!" when asked if he would now march in the parade.

The flag-raising ceremony was attended by SF Pride leaders, including Wysinger and Ford, lesbian Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson, and others.

"Here in San Francisco, we embrace our diverse communities to ensure that everyone can live freely as who they are," Breed stated. "While other states attack the rights of LGBTQ individuals, here in San Francisco, we fly the Pride flag proudly to celebrate the history and honor the accomplishments of this community. Today reflects and the entire month of June reflects the strength of the LGBTQ community and our city's commitment to LGBTQ rights and equality."

While the city's LGBTQ cultural districts had previously said that would not send representatives to the flag-raising, Aria Sa'id, president and chief strategist of the Transgender District, was in attendance.

"When they reached out to me and said they had reached an agreement that their board was satisfied with, it was enough for us at the Transgender District in particular," said Sa'id. "Because it's not our event but we wanted to support another trans-led organization that puts on one of the largest festivals in San Francisco every single year." (SF Pride leader Ford is a transgender woman.)

Noting the agreement had come together rather quickly, Sa'id said, "We just got alerted an hour before" the flag-raising ceremony, and they just walked over from their offices in the Tenderloin.

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) also attended the event at City Hall.

"The LGBTQ flag raising at City Hall is always a banner moment kicking off Pride Month in San Francisco," Wiener stated. "Particularly now — with so many vicious political attacks against LGBTQ youth around the country — San Francisco must be a beacon of hope for our community. The rainbow flag represents the hope, safety, and joy that San Francisco has come to mean for the LGBTQ community."

In San Diego, police and other law enforcement officers faced a similar predicament as the Southern California city's Pride organization had also banned them from wearing their uniforms in the parade. After numerous, lengthy discussions, San Diego Pride's Healing & Safer Communities Committee in April made the recommendation that encouraged law enforcement personnel to wear some other type of "unique" uniform, such as T-shirts designed for the Pride event. It does not ban the wearing of uniforms.

It is unclear whether San Diego Pride officials will revisit the issue ahead of next year's event.

Updated, 6/2/22: This article has been updated with the joint statement from SF Pride and the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance.

Updated, 6/3/22: This article has been corrected - an earlied reference to the command staff marching without weapons was inaccurate.

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