The Pride we know started as a protest against police violence.
For the past 25 years, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has marched in the legendary New York City Pride parade. However, in mid-May of this year, NYC Pride organizers announced they would be banning NYPD from marching with the parade until June 2025. The decision has been met with backlash from police and city officials, the editorial board of The New York Times, and even some board members of Heritage of Pride, the non-profit that organizes the historic NYC Pride events and march. While reaction to the announcement has been mixed, the decision takes the Pride we know today back to its roots as a protest against police violence..
Reflecting on the history of Pride, the inclusion of police for so long can be seen as antithetical to its origins. As many know, the story of Pride began on the night of June 28, 1969, when NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn, harassing an estimated 200 LGBTQ+ patrons at the bar. The community fought back and stood up to the police causing what would later be called the Stonewall Riots. A year later in 1970, the first Pride march began in New York City.
Fast-forwarding to today, 52 years after Stonewall, police and the carceral state continue to engage in violence against LGBTQ+ people, especially those who are Black, Brown, and Trans. For example, in 2019, Layleen Polanco died after being held in solitary confinement in New York City’s Rikers Island Jail for not being able to pay $500 in bail. Just last year, Tony McDade, a Black Trans Man in Tallahassee, Florida, was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop. Again in 2020, on the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, police clashed with marchers honoring the legacy of those who came before them in the fight for justice. Police violence against LGBTQ+ people has not gone away since the days of Stonewall and further demonstrates the need for the community to turn to other alternatives that will produce safety.
Pride is a movement that accepts and affirms people who have been subjected to isolation, shame, and harm for being who they are. We know these as some of the core drivers of violence in our communities. We also know that police are a part of a system that compounds and exacerbates these drivers. Therefore police, by their very nature, cannot keep LGBTQ+ people or any of us safe, and their presence is likely to make many LGBTQ+ people feel unsafe.
The decision to remove police from the NYC Pride march is a bold step to not only keeping NYPD accountable for its years of violence against the community but will also allow LGBTQ+ people, particularly Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people, to march without fear.