San Francisco police chief 'disappointed' by Pride ban

by Oscar Lopez | @oscarlopezgib | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 3 September 2020 17:54 GMT

Police officers stand guard over a temporary community house for LGBT people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 24, 2020. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

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Organisers of San Francisco's Pride event call for "a fundamental restructuring of policing" as LGBT+ groups increasingly question police presence at Pride marches

By Oscar Lopez

Sept 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - San Francisco's police chief said on Thursday he was "disappointed" that the city's Pride parade had banned uniformed officers from participating in next year's LGBT+ march.

The San Francisco Pride Board of Directors said it had enacted its ban after a city oversight agency dismissed complaints of local police using unnecessary force during a confrontation with protesters in 2019.

"As the Chief of Police, I am disappointed in the Pride Board's decision," said Chief William Scott in emailed comments.

"I believe it is important for our members to participate in Pride Month activities so we can show firsthand that we are a diverse department, that we are proud of who we are and that we are willing to work closely with the LGBTQ community we serve."

LGBT+ groups around the world increasingly question police presence at Pride marches, calling for the events to return to their roots as acts of rebellion against police brutality.

Worldwide, Pride commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots when police raided a New York bar of the same name and patrons fought back, Black and Hispanic transgender activists among them.

"The roots of the Pride movement are based in free and honest expression," the San Francisco Pride Board said in a statement on Wednesday announcing its police ban.

"We acknowledge and appreciate the steps that the police have taken to heal decades of mistrust between the department and the city's LGBTQ+ communities.

"But SFPD's longstanding patterns of violence outweigh any rainbow-colored police cruisers or Pride patches".

According to Pride organizers, the conflict arose in June 2019 when demonstrators disrupted the Parade and officers intervened, "swarming the area and leading to a larger scuffle".

Two months after the confrontation, Scott made headlines by offering an official apology to the LGBT+ community for a history of violence and mistreatment at the hands of police.

"We're sorry for what happened, we're sorry for our role in it, and we're sorry for the harm that it caused," he said.

But organizers of the city's Pride event said such actions were "merely symbolic" and called for "a fundamental restructuring of policing as an institution".

The calls for police reform echo those made by activists across the country in the wake of killings of unarmed Black men by police, including the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd.

Related stories:

Calls grow for police to be banned from Pride marches

As protests roar, LGBT+ activists see chance to return to ‘radical roots’

OPINION: Police Brutality. Riots. Pride

(Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib; editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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