Three major participants have dropped out of this year’s SF Pride parade, after the SF Pride organization announced earlier this week that it would heighten security in the wake of the Orlando attacks.
Black Lives Matter Bay Area (scheduled to receive Pride’s Lifetime Achievement award), sex worker health clinic St. James Infirmary (receiving the “Heritage of Pride” award), and anti-incarceration TGI Justice Project‘s Janetta Johnson (a community grand marshal) held a press conference this morning to announce their withdrawal from the parade and celebration. The organizations will still accept their awards.
SF Pride, whose theme this year is “Racial and Economic Justice” earlier this week announced it was taking unprecedented security measures this year, including screening entrants to Sunday’s Civic Center celebration with metal detectors and bag searches. Newly forbidden items include shopping carts, e-cigarettes, and “any item deemed inappropriate or hazardous by law enforcement and/or security.”
Concerns among LGBT communities of color, as well as individual participants, were immediately raised when the new security measures were announced. Many felt alienated and less safe by the sudden increase in security force presence and potential violation of civil liberties. Already, members of the local Latino LGBT community felt that the Orlando tragedy was being “whitewashed,” the focus shifting from the racism and homophobia directed at the communities directly affected and placed in contexts of xenophobian anti-immigration, and increased militarism on the national political stage.
According to a statement from the withdrawing organizations distributed to journalists, “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 and 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.”
The statement continued, “In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting that took the lives of dozens of queer, trans and gender non-conforming people of color, many people in our community are afraid. For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic 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.”
In the statement, Shanelle Matthews, a member of Black Lives Matter, says, “‘In the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, Black communities experience real fear and terror at the hands of homophobic vigilantes and law enforcement, and we work every day to find solutions. We know the militarization of large-scale events only gives the illusion of safety. We are choosing to do the real work of building safe communities.”
Among those who had voiced immediate concern on social media about Pride’s new security measures was St. James Infirmary Executive Director Stephanie Joy Ashley, who was joined by TGI Justice Project’s Janetta Johnson, who is also a member of Black Lives Matter. They came together to form a coalition and make the withdrawal statement, according to TGI JP spokesperson Woods Ervin.
“When Janetta heard that there would be sweeps of street-based communities and the increased police presence, we knew we had to do something,” Ervin told 48 Hills by phone. “The appropriate response to the Orlando tragedy is nor more policing of communities of color, who are already the most vulnerable to abuse and are the most alienated by increased police presence. This does not make those communities feel safer.
“Our intent with this action is to amplify the need for the city to be able to address safety issues without immediately resorting to more policing,” Ervin said. “The city should work with the affected communities to build alternatives to policing, and utilize multiple other methods of de-escalation and conflict resolution.”
FULL STATEMENT BELOW:
IN RESPONSE TO INCREASED POLICING OF CIVIC CENTER, GRAND MARSHALS, AWARDEES WITHDRAW FROM PARTICIPATION IN PRIDE PARADE
Multiple Pride honorees state that increased policing and militarized security makes LGBTQI communities of color unsafe at Pride Celebration.
Grand Marshal Janetta Johnson, Executive Director of the TGI Justice Project- an organization by and for trans, gender non-conforming and intersex 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.
While honorees recognized the increased concerns about safety in light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, several argued that a greater police presence would increase the likelihood of violence against queer and trans people of color. “In the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, Black communities experience real fear and terror at the hands of homophobic vigilantes and law enforcement, and we work every day to find solutions. We know the militarization of large-scale events only gives the illusion of safety. We are choosing to do the real work of building safe communities” said Shanelle Matthews, a member of Black Lives Matter, who also announced their withdrawal from the parade.
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 closing Janetta Johnson thanked SF PRIDE for their collaboration and understanding, “I am so honored that the community selected me. It is important that other Black trans women, especially younger girls and especially formerly incarcerated Black trans women, know that we matter, our actions matter, that we can work together to create a different future. But I just don’t feel comfortable accepting being in this parade. I walk in my neighborhood and see so many people sleeping on the street. I know come Sunday, they won’t be allowed to be here and many will be in jail. Particularly, in the San Francisco County Jail, where one of my Sisters, Athena Cadence, is on the 24th day of a hunger strike to demand a gender self-determination housing and search policy be implemented.
“But I can’t even bring myself to call it housing really, the truth is my community needs house keys not handcuffs, needs care not cages, needs jobs and job training, economic power and cultural self-determination. We need safety, real safety. And when Black trans women are safe, in our city, in our society, every single day. When my community is safe, then we can be really proud.”