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Mayor Breed won't participate in SF Pride parade if police uniform ban remains in place

Controversy stirred by SF Pride Parade organizers asking police not to wear uniforms
Controversy stirred by SF Pride Parade organizers asking police not to wear uniforms 04:03

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mayor London Breed announced Monday she would not participate in this year's Pride parade over the organizers refusal to lift a ban blocking LGBTQ+ peace officers in uniform from taking part.

Breed's decision came hours after the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance issued a news release critical of the ban and organizers refusal to lift it.

SF Pride organizers initially enacted a restriction on uniforms in 2020, a year after a tense confrontation between police and demonstrators who blocked part of the 2019 parade route.

With the parade once again taking place since its pandemic hiatus, the SFPO Pride Alliance said in has engaged in talks with the organizers over the 18 months, hoping to get the ban lifted.

The San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance and LGBTQ+ members of the San Francisco Sheriff's office issued a joint statement in response to the San Francisco Pride Committee asking police officers to attend the parade without their uniforms. 

LGBTQ+ firefighters with the San Francisco Fire Department also signed the statement and said they would not walk in the Pride Parade in solidarity with the city's law enforcement officers.

"The board of SF Pride offered only one option: that LGBTQ+ peace officers hang up their uniforms, put them back in the closet, and march in civilian attire," the alliance said in a news release. "The San Francisco Pride Committee has asked the LGBTQ+ peace officers to go back in the closet."

The officers and firefighters also argued that Pride organizers would not take similar actions against other groups that regularly participate in Pride, such as the drag and kink communities. 

"This committee would not order the leather community to wear polyester at the parade. This committee would not order the drag community to wear flannel," they said. "But they have told us, peace officers, that if we wear our uniforms, we may not attend."

The mayor announced her support for the alliance.

"I support the LGBTQ members of our public safety departments who are calling on the Pride Board to reverse its ban on uniformed members of law enforcement from participating in the Pride Parade," Breed said in a statement. "I love the Pride Parade, and what it means for our LGBTQ community and for our city. It's one of my favorite events of the year. However, if the Pride Board does not reverse its decision, I will join our city public safety departments that are not participating in the Pride Parade."

She called her decision a difficult one. 

"I've made this very hard decision in order to support those members of the LGBTQ community who serve in uniform," she said.

Breed also stressed that she would continue to participate in other activities commemorating Pride Month.

"I'm hopeful that the members of the Pride Board will change their position on this matter, but even if they don't, we will still celebrate Pride throughout the month of June in San Francisco," the mayor said, "I will raise the Pride flag over City Hall and participate in numerous other Pride activities that are happening. And I will remain committed to advancing policies that serve the LGBTQ community, building on programs like creating the nation's first guaranteed income program for the Transgender people and funding our efforts to get to zero new HIV infections."

Newly-appointed Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who is also the director of strategic communications for the SFPD, joined in Monday to condemn the ban.

"All San Franciscans share a compelling interest in solving our public safety staffing crisis in ways that attract the most diverse and qualified pool of candidates we can," Dorsey said. "We can do that by showcasing our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in our police, fire and sheriff's departments. But a policy of exclusion, which prohibits LGBTQ+ first responders and allies from marching in uniform, sends exactly the wrong message at a time when we can ill afford to do so."

On Monday afternoon, the San Francisco Police Department issued a statement in support of Breed's action.

"We proudly stand with Mayor London Breed, members of the San Francisco Sheriff's Office and San Francisco Fire Department, to not march in the San Francisco Pride Parade. We will be there to support them when the time comes that they return to marching in the parade," the department said. "Even though our members may not be marching in this year's Pride Parade, the San Francisco Police Department will be on hand to ensure that everyone attending and participating in SF Pride Weekend activities enjoys a safe and celebratory Pride Weekend in San Francisco."

For years, Kathyrn Winters walked the Castro beat as a San Francisco police officer, connecting with vulnerable members of her community where she grew up. 

"There are a number of homeless trans women in this neighborhood," said Kathyrn Winters of the SF Police Officers Pride Alliance. 

"They would see the uniform first, and I could tell they were a little uncomfortable," said Winters. 

But wearing blue is an essential part of who she is as a second generation cop.  

"When I'm in civilian clothes, people don't recognize I'm a police officer, even if they've met me as an officer.  But if I'm in that uniform they always recognize me," said Winters. 

In 2019, a clash ensued between officers and protestors disrupting the Pride Parade.  

But for Winters, that didn't overshadow her first time walking as an out, transgender woman and SFPD officer with her family. 

"My whole entire being as a trans woman, a mother, a lesbian, a police officer was welcomed accepted and embraced here in San Francisco," said Winters. 

It's a moment she'll never forget.  

Pride officials insist first responders aren't being excluded, but instead being asked to wear something else like a t-shirt with department logos.  

"We're not trying to single them out but trying to find a way to include them," said San Francisco Pride interim Executive Director Suzanne Ford. "We're not the only pride doing this look at NYC Pride, Seattle, Portland, and San Diego Pride.  No police are marching in their parades." 

Pride organizers say they're trying to be more sensitive to people who have been "traumatized" by their encounters with police and being more "radically inclusive." 

"We just asked them to show up a little differently which would have been a message to our community that they heard us," said Ford. 

Pride says its decision was unanimous. 

San Francisco's 52nd annual Pride celebration will be held at Civic Center Plaza from noon to 6 p.m. on June 25 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 26. The parade is expected to begin at 10:30 a.m. June 26.

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