Why Black Lives Matter pulled out of San Francisco's gay parade

Black Lives Matter said that it would not participate in San Francisco's pride parade, citing concerns about the police presence at the event. 

Jonathan Drake/REUTERS
Members of the black community join a diverse crowd of protesters opposing North Carolina's HB2 "bathroom law" that restricts members of the LGBT community from using the bathroom of their choice, during a demonstration outside the state legislature in Raleigh, North Carolina in May.

Black Lives Matter Bay Area has announced Friday that it will not take place in San Francisco’s Pride Parade, citing concerns about the city’s decision to increase the police presence at the event after the nightclub shootings in Orlando.

Other groups have also announced that they will be pulling out of the parade due to city decisions which they say marginalize parts of the community.

“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,” said Black Lives Matter member Malkia Cyril in a press release. “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.”

Black Lives Matter, one of the intended grand marshals of the parade, also mentioned specific concerns about the San Francisco police department’s track record of killing people of color.

A series of racial scandals have plagued the San Francisco police department in recent months, prompting San Francisco mayor Ed Lee to ask for police chief Greg Suhr’s resignation in May.

Mr. Suhr had faced trouble for some time due to revelations that several police officers had sent and received racist text messages under his leadership. Then, the police killings of stabbing suspect Mario Woods and armed homeless man Luis Gongora prompted questions of whether the police department had followed the correct procedure in those instance.

The final straw for Suhr was a police killing of an unarmed African American woman which catalyzed a series of events on May 19 that led to Suhr’s resignation later that same day.

“The progress we have made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough,” said Mayor Lee in a news conference, “not for me and not for Greg, and that’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation.”

Against this context, the Black Lives Matter Bay Area group decided to withdraw from the parade this weekend.

“For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic and transphobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence,” wrote Black Lives Matter in the aforementioned press release. “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.”

Leadership from other groups, such as the TGI Justice Project (which advocates for transgender, intersex, and gender non conforming people in prisons) and the St. James Infirmary also announced their decisions not to attend.

The St. James Infirmary noted that the ban on shopping carts had the potential to exclude marginalized groups, such as the homeless, played a role in its decision not to attend.

San Francisco’s Pride Parade is not the only such event to see participation drop in the wake of the Orlando shootings. While many cities, including Cincinnati, have beefed up security at Pride Parades, Black Lives Matter and other black community groups in several cities have declined to attend, citing concerns about their safety due to an increased police presence.

Last weekend, BreakOut!, a group that seeks to end the “criminalization of LGBTQ youth” in New Orleans announced at the last minute that it would not attend the city’s pride parade due to concerns about the police presence.

Regarding her organization’s decision to withdraw from this weekend’s parade, Shanelle Matthews, director of communications for the Black Lives Matter network said in a statement that the community faces “real terror” at the hands of police.

Black Lives Matter activists have also objected to the acquittal of Officer Caesar Goodson in the trial over the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray and last week, the Black Lives Matter released a statement blaming “white supremacy and capitalism” for the Orlando nightclub attacks suggests that the organization will remain active in the coming months as US city leaders struggle to reconcile issues of public safety, racism, and bigotry.

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