Editorial: SF Pride officials, police step up

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday June 8, 2022
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A San Francisco police officer greets Pridegoers at the 2016 San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Pete Thoshinsky
A San Francisco police officer greets Pridegoers at the 2016 San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Pete Thoshinsky

We're glad that San Francisco Pride officials and the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance reached a compromise that will allow LGBTQ peace officers and other first responders to proudly march in the June 26 parade, albeit with only the leaders and command staff in uniform. At a time when so much of the country is polarized it was heartening to see the two sides come together, apparently largely with the help of gay small business owner Manny Yekutiel, who met with SF Pride leaders and SF Pride Alliance members at his eponymous cafe in the Mission district. According to our reporting, the agreement was reached shortly before Mayor London Breed's ceremonial Pride flag-raising ceremony June 2, giving her some good news to announce after leadership of the city's LGBTQ cultural districts all said they would skip the event because Breed had stated she would not march in the parade if police were not allowed to march in uniform. (The Transgender District sent representatives after it became aware that a deal had been reached.)

It's important to note that this was not a new policy — we reported in the fall of 2020 that SF Pride had decided that uniformed San Francisco Police Department personnel would not be allowed to march in uniform in 2021. But the parade was canceled last year due to the COVID pandemic, meaning that the parade's return this year is the first time the policy is being tested. The reasoning behind SF Pride's decision, according to its leaders, was that 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. (One of the protesters, Taryn Saldivar, alleging violations of their constitutional rights, battery, and false arrest and imprisonment, later sued the City of San Francisco and the police department, receiving a settlement of $190,000 in September 2021.)

SF Pride officials, now that they've agreed to the compromise for this year, need to explain to the public what their plans are going forward. More importantly, they need to tell people what they can expect if protests occur at this year's parade, which seems likely. In a June 1 statement, the police department's Pride Alliance said that it was parade organizers who called upon police to break up that 2019 protest. SFPD provides security at the parade — which was unaffected by the uniform policy and subsequent compromise — and SF Pride needs to be clear about what its current safety plan is. While we understand some details might not be public, SF Pride leaders should at the least inform people about the basic security parameters.

The modern Pride parades were born out of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. LGBTQ patrons, tired of homophobic and transphobic treatment, fought back in what became a defining moment for the nascent community. San Francisco had the Compton's Cafeteria riots three years earlier, in August 1966, when fed up trans patrons fought back against police harassment. And even after Stonewall, there remained a tense and, at times, violent relationship between LGBTQs and police in San Francisco. The White Night riots in May 1979 and the infamous Castro Sweep a decade later attest to that.

Still, many police departments across the country have been positively impacted by the addition of LGBTQ officers, including members of command staff and even chiefs of police. These community members have worked to change the culture of law enforcement organizations from within. In San Francisco, they have provided wider cultural competency, as the pride alliance stated. Many police officers — LGBTQ and straight, in cities across the country — were shocked themselves by the brutal police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. Locally, a nonbinary SFPD officer even faced disciplinary action when they were reprimanded for wearing earrings on the job while kneeling in solidarity with protesters outside Mission Station. Fortunately, that outdated and transphobic dress code was changed by the Police Commission a few months later — yet another example of positive change coming out of a bad situation.

Not everyone is happy about the compromise between SF Pride and the police, just as the original stalemate upset a lot of other people. But it's important to put this in a larger context than a protest at the parade three years ago. SF Pride should be welcoming to all. LGBTQ officers and other first responders have marched in San Francisco's Pride parade for decades. SF Pride officials and the SFPO Pride Alliance deserve credit for reaching an agreement.

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