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New York City Pride parade organizers ban cops from marching in uniform

Uniformed members of the NYPD on motorcycles await

Uniformed members of the NYPD on motorcycles await the start of the New York City Pride March in Manhattan on June 30, 2019. Credit: Charles Eckert

Cops, correction officers and other "law enforcement exhibitors" are being banned from participating in uniform at New York City's Pride parade until at least 2025, according to organizers, who are also seeking to replace the NYPD with private guards to secure the event.

Heritage of Pride — the organizer of the annual events commemorating the history-changing riots at Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn in 1969 that sparked the modern gay-rights movement — made the announcement Saturday.

Due to the pandemic, the 2021 events are mostly virtual, but there is an in-person parade planned for 2022.

"NYC Pride seeks to create safer spaces for the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities," the organizers said in a news release, adding: "The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous, to those in our community. ... NYC Pride is unwilling to contribute in any way to creating an atmosphere of fear or harm for members of the community."

The release added: "All aspects of first response and security that can be reallocated to trained private security, community leaders, and volunteers will be reviewed."

The New York City ban will be reviewed after 2025, the news release said.

The NYPD's gay fraternal organization, the Gay Officers Action League, or GOAL, once had to sue the department, in 1996, to be allowed to march in uniform.

GOAL's president, Brian Downey, who is also an NYPD detective working in intelligence and counterterrorism, called the ban is a mistake, lamented Saturday that Pride's organizers have aligned themselves with those seeking to abolish and defund the police — at the exclusion of other members of the community.

"We're queer people. We're LGBTQIA+ people ... we are part of the community whether activists want to say we're part of the community or not," he said, adding: "I'm openly in a relationship with a man, so I think I'm part of the community."

Downey, whose organization has about 400 active members who are on the job and retired, also questioned how organizers could feasibly exclude the NYPD from patrolling a large public gathering.

Long Island’s Pride events will not ban cops, organizer David Kilmnick told Newsday Saturday afternoon.

"We are not and will never ban any LGBT or allied person from marching and displaying their pride," Kilmnick said in a text. "Law enforcement is part of our community and we can fight for the reform needed and embrace those police officers who are fighting within for change both at the same time."

Pride, which has expanded to celebrations around the world, marks the events of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn — a gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village — when patrons hurled bricks, fists and trash cans at NYPD cops who had raided the establishment, a common occurrence when gay gathering places were illegal.

Police raids of such places — often run by the mob, because a legitimate, legal proprietorship was impossible back then — were common at a time when homosexuality, such venues and even failing to wear a sufficient amount of clothing that corresponded to traditional notions of sex and gender, were all against the law.

The riots marked a pivot in the gay-rights movement and are credited with birthing a more confrontational, and less deferential, approach to activism. Banning cops is a turnaround for the Pride group, which once called the parade "a free speech event, which means any group is welcome to register and participate in the march."

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