Mayor London Breed announced Monday that she will join San Francisco's public safety agencies in skipping the Pride Parade this year, unless the event's organizers reverse a controversial ban on law enforcement uniforms.
"I've made this very hard decision in order to support those members of the LGBTQ community who serve in uniform, in our Police Department and Sheriff's Department, who have been told they cannot march in uniform and in support of the members of the Fire Department who are refusing to march out of solidarity with their public safety partners," Breed wrote in a statement.
Supervisor Matt Dorsey said he will also forgo this year's parade "so long as the exclusionary policy remains in effect." Breed picked Dorsey two weeks ago to fill the vacant board seat for District Six, comprising the SoMa and Mission Bay neighborhoods. Until his appointment, Dorsey served as a top spokesperson for the Police Department.
The mayor and supervisor's decisions follow a joint statement by the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance, LGBTQ sheriff deputies and San Francisco firefighters, whose chief, Jeanine Nicholson, is the first openly gay person to head the Fire Department. Nicholson said, through a spokesperson, that she will not be marching this year unless the Pride board changes its policy.
Board directors for SF Pride initially enacted a restriction on uniforms in 2020, a year after a tense confrontation between police and demonstrators who blocked part of the parade route on Market Street, and months after the racial justice uprisings triggered by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Although COVID outbreaks thwarted the parade in 2021, the board took another vote to reinstate the uniform ban this year.
Pride's interim executive director, Suzanne Ford, told The Chronicle that police and sheriff's deputies could still wear matching T-shirts or other garments to denote their role, a concession she and other event organizers saw as reasonable and less provocative to people who feel they have been mistreated by police.
"We are disappointed in Mayor Breed's decision, but look forward to working with her and law enforcement agencies in finding a solution that is satisfactory to all," Ford said Monday through a spokesperson.
While Pride parades in other cities have implemented similar prohibitions on police uniforms and waged similar battles with officers who take umbrage, the fight in San Francisco is intensifying. LGBTQ officers vowing to sit out the parade say the rule undermines the civil rights gains they have made in departments that once oppressed the LGBTQ community.
At its inception in 1970, Pride represented the community's resistance to historical moments of police violence, including the Compton's Cafeteria Riot in the Tenderloin in 1966, and the Stonewall uprisings in New York City in 1969. But in the ensuing decades, as LGBTQ people have joined police forces and sought reform, the symbolism of law enforcement uniforms has evolved, officers say.
Breed invoked that sentiment in her statement, suggesting that LGBTQ officers are being penalized even as they fight to make law enforcement departments more progressive.
"One of the central planks of the movement for better policing is a demand that the people who serve in uniform better represent the communities they are policing," Breed wrote. "We can't say, 'We want more Black officers,' or 'We want more LGBTQ officers,' and then treat those officers with disrespect when they actually step up and serve."
Similarly, Dorsey characterized the Pride board's dress code as "a policy of exclusion" that "sends exactly the wrong message at a time when we can ill afford to do so." He emphasized the need to draw more qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds into law enforcement, and said he would happily meet with Pride board members to urge them to reconsider.
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