After years of pressure from LGBTQ activists, NYC Pride is finally doing something to address the presence of police officers at its annual events.
Heritage of the Pride — the organization behind New York City's annual Pride March and a host of other city-sanctioned events — announced on Saturday (May 15) that it will be "taking steps" to keep cops out of Pride festivities. Effective immediately, police groups and law enforcement exhibitors are banned from participating in all NYC Pride events until 2025. Security measures will be overseen by a private company and "safety volunteers" who have undergone de-escalation training. NYC Pride will contact the New York City Police Department (NYPD) "only when absolutely necessary as mandated by city officials."
"NYC Pride seeks to create safer spaces for the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities at a time when violence against marginalized groups, specifically BIPOC and trans communities, has continued to escalate," Heritage of Pride's announcement reads in part. "The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous, to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force and/or without reason."
NYC Pride co-chair André Thomas added that the new policies follow "many months of conversation and discussion with key stakeholders in the community."
It's no secret to any LGBTQ New Yorker that Pride festivities are only possible because of a protest against a violent police raid on NYC's Stonewall Inn in 1969. But anti-LGBTQ violence at the hands of police continues to this day. Cops have consistently antagonized LGBTQ people at NYC Pride events, Beverly Tillery of the NYC Anti-Violence Project (AVP) told The New York Times. Almost every year, AVP receives reports from Pride attendees of harassment or physical altercations with "the very police who are supposed to be protecting them."
A protester at RPC's Queer Liberation March in 2020.
Year after year, countless community organizers have called out the hypocrisy of NYPD officers attending Pride. Heritage of Pride's resistance to change was actually the catalyst for the formation of NYC's Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC), the grassroots organization behind 2019 and 2020's Queer Liberation Marches in Manhattan.
"We realized that there was no way to get [Heritage of Pride] to budge on anything," RPC organizer Jay W. Walker told NewNowNext ahead of the second annual Queer Liberation March last June. "We wanted all of our participants to feel safe and feel welcome, but we did our march with a minimal police presence so that everyone would be able to feel welcome and not under threat of arrest."
In stark contrast to Heritage of Pride's city-sanctioned events, RPC's marches are un-permitted and free of police and corporate sponsors. According to RPC organizers, the only security concerns that emerged during past protests occurred because the NYPD attacked demonstrators, not the other way around.
RPC is planning its third annual Queer Liberation March for Sunday, June 27, 2021. Heritage of Pride has yet to confirm if it will have an in-person march amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Main image: A uniformed officer at NYC Pride in 2016.