Multiple Pride honorees state that increased policing and militarized security makes LGBTQ communities of color unsafe at Pride Celebration.

San Francisco, CA – In light of the recent announcement that PRIDE participants would be subject to increased policing, metal detectors and discretionary admittance, several Grand Marshals and awardees of the “racial & economic justice” themed event are withdrawing from participation in the Pride Parade or Civic Center activities because of the unsafe conditions created for our communities by law enforcement. In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting that took the lives of dozens of queer people of color, many people in our community are afraid. For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic and transphobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence. We had a tough decision to make, and ultimately we chose to keep our people safe by not participating in any event that would leave our communities vulnerable to either.

Organizational Grand Marshal Black Lives Matter withdrew their participation, citing the SFPD’s recent track record of racist scandal and killings of people of color, and noting that while first responders can be an incredible resource in crisis, they are too often the cause of harm in queer communities of color.

“The Black Lives Matter network is grateful to the people of San Francisco for choosing us, we choose you too,” said Malkia Cyril, a member of Black Lives Matter. “As queer people of color, we are disproportionately targeted by both vigilante and police violence. We know first hand that increasing the police presence at Pride does not increase safety for all people. Militarizing these events increases the potential for harm to our communities and we hope in the future SF Pride will consider community-centered approaches to security at pride events.”

Grand Marshal Janetta Johnson, Executive Director of the TGI Justice Project- an organization by and for trans, intersex and gender non conforming people in prisons, jails and detention centers – announced her decision to withdraw from the parade at a Pride press conference on Friday. “While I am thankful for this honor, and grateful to Pride for bringing our work to the front this year, the decision to add more police to Pride does not make me, or my community, more safe,” Johnson said.

The St. James Infirmary, which was slated to receive the Heritage of Pride Award at the Main Stage on Sunday, echoed the concerns of the Grand Marshals. “LGBT sex workers are often victims of violence and exploitation at the hands of police” said Executive Director Stephany Ashley. “The increased police presence at Civic Center, as well as the ban on shopping carts and items typically belonging to marginally housed and homeless people will only make Pride less safe and accessible to our communities. These policies do not reflect the theme of racial & economic justice which we sought to march under proudly.”

The move comes a week after Grand Marshals of the New Orleans Pride Parade, BreakOUT! announced they would not be marching because increased law enforcement made its members- predominantly young trans people of color- feel unsafe to do so. In addition to a 25% increase in local law enforcement (both in uniform and undercover), Federal law enforcement agencies are also scheduled to be on site at the Civic Center events.

“In the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, Black communities experience real fear and terror at the hands of homophobic and racist vigilantes and law enforcement,” said Shanelle Matthews, Director of Communications for the Black Lives Matter network. “We are working every day to find solutions and we know the militarization of large-scale events only gives an illusion of safety. We are choosing to do the real work of building safe communities.”