Police will be banned from participating in New York City Pride celebrations as event organizers grapple with a year of reckoning over police violence and a push to center the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community.
The ban applies to law enforcement and corrections officers until at least 2025. Organizers said they would also aim to limit the role of the NYPD in a security capacity.
“NYC Pride seeks to create safer spaces for the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities at a time when violence against marginalized groups, specifically BIPOC and trans communities, has continued to escalate,” event organizers said in a statement Saturday. “NYC Pride is unwilling to contribute in any way to creating an atmosphere of fear or harm for members of the community. The steps being taken by the organization challenge law enforcement to acknowledge their harm and to correct course moving forward, in hopes of making an impactful change.”
Heritage of Pride, which organizes NYC Pride events, also said that it would review the presence of the NYPD as first responders and security for the event, and that it had an increased budget for security that would allow it to transition those roles to private security, community responders, and safety volunteers.
“NYPD will provide first response and security only when absolutely necessary as mandated by city officials,” the statement said.
The move was described as “shameful” by the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL), which advocates for LGBTQ law enforcement officers in New York. The group sued the NYPD in 1996 for barring gay and lesbian officers from using a police van and the department marching band at a Pride event. More recently, the group’s members have participated, with the department’s support.
“Heritage of Pride is well aware that the city would not allow a large scale event to occur without police presence. So their response to activist pressure is to take the low road by preventing their fellow community members from celebrating their identities and honoring the shared legacy of the Stonewall Riots,” GOAL President Brian Downey said in a statement.
An NYPD spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the department was “disheartened” by the decision but would still plan to be present “to ensure traffic safety and good order during this huge, complex event.”
The first Pride march was organized to commemorate a 1969 police crackdown on gay bars that led to riots outside the Stonewall Inn. Debate over the spirit of Pride — including the role of police and corporate sponsors — has been simmering for years. Other cities, including Toronto and Minneapolis, have already prohibited uniformed officers from participating, and an alternative annual event, the Queer Liberation March, has been organized in New York since 2019. Last summer, on the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, attendees at that march denounced what they described as excessive force, saying that police used pepper spray and batons on protesters.
Pride demonstrations in June 2020 also coincided with nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd and systemic racism, and calls to recapture the revolutionary attitude behind Pride grew louder.
While transgender women are widely credited as leaders of that initial riot and the early gay rights movement, trans people have continued to struggle for fair treatment, with Black trans people in particular facing overwhelming rates of incarceration and police harassment. Advocates organized a historic march in Brooklyn last year in response to the “epidemic” of abuse that Black trans people face, including violence from police.
Ceyenne Doroshow, a trans rights and sex worker rights advocate who spoke at the march, told BuzzFeed News on Sunday that she felt the decision by NYC Pride organizers to ban police was overdue.
“Why would we want to justify what the police have been doing this year, and years before, and decades before? No. It’s about time that we’ve done away with this,” said Doroshow. “The fact that it is Pride and the police have been particularly horrible to my community, I never want their presence."