Saturday, June 24, 2017

Police, Pride, and Philando Castile

Well, now that Twin Cities Pride has reversed its decision regarding the presence of uniformed police personnel in tomorrow's Pride parade, I appreciate local community leader and businessman Ken Darling's invitation:

Imagine this: What if the uniformed officers, whom the Pride Committee just asked to return to the parade, carried signs that said "We hear you." "We understand your fear." "We will do better." Or maybe just two words: "Philando Castile."

As you may already know, Twin Cities Pride announced this past Tuesday that a planned contingent of police officers and law enforcement officials would not be marching at the head of this year's Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade. Writing in, Andy Birkey reported that "the decision was made in response to a groundswell of opposition both before and after the not-guilty verdict in the police killing of Philando Castile."

And in a Facebook post explaining the decision, Twin Cities Pride executive director Dot Belstler wrote: “With the recent verdict in the Philando Castile case Twin Cities Pride has decided to forgo this part of the police participation in the parade for this year and respect the pain the community is feeling right now. There will just be one lone unmarked police car starting off the parade and there will limited police participation in the parade itself.”

Yesterday, however, the following statement was released by Belstler and the Twin Cities Pride Board of Directors.

Earlier this week Twin Cities Pride made a decision to forego uniformed, off-duty police officers from participating in the beginning of the Twin Cities Pride Parade. We would like to apologize to the law enforcement community for neglecting to communicate and consider input for other possible alternatives prior to releasing the details of this decision.

Following its release, we received input from impacted parties and through this input we recognize this decision has made members of the law enforcement community feel excluded, which is contrary to our mission to foster inclusion. Our intent is and was to respect the pain that the people of color and transgender communities have experienced as of late, but our original approach fell short of our mission.

As of yesterday afternoon, we productively met with representatives of these parties, including Chief Harteau of the Minneapolis Police Department and Roxanne Anderson, Executive Director of the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition, in an effort to create a cohesive, unifying alternative which is inclusive of each perspective on this issue.

One unmarked police car will clear the way as originally stated, and we would like to invite members of the law enforcement community to participate in the parade by holding the Unity flag or marching alongside the Rainbow, Bisexual, or Transgender flags.

To our transgender and people of color communities, we will continue to respect your pain and angst by bridging the divide and continuing conversations on both sides of this issue to ensure we consider alternatives that make each group feel comfortable and safe.

Twin Cities Pride will also continue to keep communication channels open with all community members to ensure our events and activities that provide a place to foster inclusion, educate and create awareness of issues, and to celebrate our achievements.

– Dot Belstler and Twin Cities Pride Board of Directors
June 23, 2017

I've read numerous responses to the above statement. One of the most powerful is the following by Erica Mauter, LGBTQI community leader, executive director for Twin Cities Women's Choir, and candidate for Ward 11 on the Minneapolis City Council.

Just when I had hope that Twin Cities Pride had really listened to queer people of color [QPOC], they reneged, and I'm disappointed again.

TC Pride held a number of listening sessions and made some changes based on feedback. I appreciate and applaud that they did this. One of those changes was to remove the contingent of uniformed police officers with marked squad cars from the front of the parade. The parade will begin with one unmarked car to clear the route, per the law.

Police officers – in uniform – are not entitled to space in the Pride parade. The irony here is SO THICK. Pride was born when queer and trans women of color revolted against police brutality. I implore everyone to understand the difference between INTENTION by marching in uniform in the parade and the IMPACT that that presence has on QPOC.

Police officers are more than welcome to participate in any/all aspects of Pride just like the rest of us do. In plain clothes. Yes, all sorts of organizations show support for the LGBTQ community by participating in the Pride festival and parade. Yes, there are police officers who are LGBT and/or people of color. Yes, they want to feel like a part of the community, too. But MPD and Twin Cities Pride have to understand the impact that UNIFORMED officers have on people of color attending the festival. QPOC have, in fact, been saying so for years. I'm not even opposed to MPD having a unit in the parade. Carry a banner. Throw some candy. Just don't wear the uniform.

I'm grateful to Roxanne Anderson for her participation in yesterday's conversations, and helping to navigate to a compromise wherein uniformed officers will not march as a unit but will help carry the flags. In fact, that's a better default for future years.

As an OutFront Minnesota Action endorsed candidate, I will be marching in the Parade with the OutFront contingent. But make no mistake, I'm incredibly disappointed. I encourage all of you who are going to the parade to talk about this with fellow parade-watchers, and let Twin Cities Pride know that you do not agree with their choices.

– Erica Mauter
via Facebook
June 23, 2017

And since I began this post with words from local LGBTQI community leader Ken Darling, I'll conclude with another quote from him, one that was originally shared yesterday on Facebook, before it was announced that Twin Cities Pride had reversed its decision regarding limiting the presence of uniformed police in tomorrow's parade.

I have a long history with the police, as a former police reporter and community activist. I've been on numerous ride alongs. I've had good and bad personal experiences with cops. I've been in the media dozens of times discussing their actions. I praised the officers who ran into the Pulse nightclub on a national radio program. I successfully called for a Minneapolis chief to be sidelined in the 1990s. I helped the first cop in Minneapolis announce she was gay on the cover of the Star Tribune, back when that was a big deal. I was even on a commission that chose a Minneapolis police chief after a decade of poor community-police relations. I know cops. I respect cops. But I also I support the Pride committee's thoughtful and necessary actions to limit police presence at Pride this year. Communities of color are hurting and are understandably angry. We all know the police protect us, that most officers are public servants who give much and receive little. But – and this is a big but – police unions, police leaders and the entire cadre of police officers must do more to weed out those cops who can't handle the job, who fear people based on the color of their skin, who overreact with deadly consequences, who can't handle even the routine pressures of the job, who justify the history of racism that permeates police culture. Yes, you have a tough job. Yes, you deserve our respect. But another young man is dead, his life wasted for no good reason, and no one is being held accountable. Again. You must do more.

– Ken Darling
via Facebook
June 23, 2017

Related Off-site Links:
Some Police Complain After Being Told They Can't March in Twin Cities Pride Parade – Karen Zamora (Star Tribune, June 22, 2017).
Twin Cities Pride Officials Reverse Course, Invite Police to March In Parade – Liz Sawyer (Star Tribune, June 23, 2017).
We Need to Get Corporate America and Police Units Out of Pride Marches – Steven W Thrasher (The Guardian, June 12, 2017).
We Mourn for Philando Castile. This Violence Must End – OutFront Minnesota (July 6, 2016).
7 Seconds. That's How Long It Took to Kill a Compliant Black Man Carrying a Legal Gun – Will Bunch (Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, June 21, 2017).
Our Fear of Black Men Is Racist, and It Killed Philando Castile – John Halstead (The Huffington Post, June 22, 2017).
“Fear” Was a Viable Defense for Killing Philando Castile. With Police and Black Victims, It Always Is – Jamelle Bouie (Slate, June 23, 2017).
Cleveland Police Officer Bravely Cracks the “Blue Wall Of Silence” – Rickey L. Hampton Sr. (The African American Athlete, June 22, 2017).
2017 Is the Year of Black Fear – Ciarra Jones (The Huffington Post, June 22, 2017).

6/25/17 UPDATE:
Advocates for Black Lives Disrupt Twin Cities Pride Parade;
Demand "Justice for Philando"

Related Off-site Links:
Protesters Block Pride Parade, Demand Police Be RemovedWCCO News (June 25, 2017).
Protest Briefly Halts Twin Cities Pride Parade on Hennepin Avenue – Pat Pheifer (Star Tribune, June 25, 2017).
Black Lives Matter Protesters Stall Twin Cities Pride ParadeFox 9 News (June 25, 2017).
Protesters Briefly Halt Pride Parade – Doualy Xaykaothao (MPR News, June 25, 2017).
No Justice, No Pride Is the Revolutionary Spirit of the Stonewall Uprising – Aaron Barksdale (Vice Impact, June 19, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color
Quote of the Day – June 20, 2017
A Lose/Lose Situation
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride

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