The Twin Cities Pride Committee’s decision to ban police officers from the June 25 Pride Parade was rescinded, but it left many people upset, scratching their heads and asking serious questions. Pride Committee Executive Director Dot Beltsler did not grant an interview request, nor would she answer written questions posed by this Lavender reporter. She was approached after the ban was announced and after the ban was rescinded. Those questions regarded specifics about how the original ban decision was actually arrived at. Beltsler was contacted to comment for Lavender a total of five times over a period of five days.
What we do know is that Pride Twin Cities, which is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit corporation, wanted to show that they stood in solidarity with some communities of color. The committee’s justification for the ban was motivated by a recent verdict in which Latino police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was not convicted of the murder of African American, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop. The death occurred in Ramsey County last year. The Pride Festival is held annually in Hennepin County.
The backlash within the regional GLBT community against the Pride Committee’s ban was visceral and an embarrassment to many GLBT citizens who simply want to fit in with, rather than rage against, American social norms as predicated by the Pride Committee. The relations between Twin Cities metro area police departments and the GLBT community have improved exponentially since the 1970s, thanks to diligence between GLBT citizens, businesses, politicians of both major parties, and the public in general. Minneapolis Police Chief, Janee Harteau, a Native American gay woman, had not been consulted by the Pride Committee about the ban. Ironically, Harteau is renown for her ability to bring different people and communities together despite hard divisions.
The population in general, beyond the GLBT community and including GLBT straight supporters, was also largely at odds with the decision. The original Pride Committee post emitted what could easily be interpreted as a shaming and sternly authoritative tone. An example of this was one sentence which read, “There will be just one lone unmarked police car starting out the parade and there will be limited police participation in the parade itself.”
Before the ban was lifted, metro area Police Captain Tom Hawley, a gay man, did however agree to be interviewed. Like many, he was puzzled, stating that “the unanimous decision in a Ramsey County courtroom by the officer’s peers—African-American, Caucasian, male, female—that he was not guilty of the crimes he was charged with, has nothing to do with the gay pride celebration, and the fact that some with a political agenda are hijacking this event is appalling to me.”
The Captain continued, “The Pride Committee’s own website talked about inclusion, but then they decide to exclude a group of people. They are painting a group with a broad brush, which is something they supposedly are opposed to. They are making the same mistake that large numbers of people used to do with African Americans and gays—painting them with a broad brush and discriminating against them at the same time.”
He went on to describe the Pride Committee’s ban decision as “offensive and deeply disappointing. Now for the first time as a gay man I feel unwelcome at a gay pride event. Sad. Those who made this decision should be ashamed of themselves.”
However, what was just as disconcerting, not just to Hawley, but to others inside and outside the GLBT community, was the committee’s way of thinking in arriving at the ban decision. Before it was rescinded they said, as Hawley pointed out, that “cops are invited back but only under certain conditions. They must carry a particular type of flag or march with somebody carrying one of those flags and they have continued to ban all marked police vehicles. They are retaliating against and penalizing law enforcement for a recent court decision in Ramsey County that has nothing to do with celebrating gay Pride. Instead of promoting inclusion like they claim to do, they would rather exclude an entire group of people, something I find insulting and shocking.”
Nationally other Pride organizers also asserted similar dictates. Portland, OR police officers were asked not to wear their uniforms. Charlotte, NC’s Pride forbade a pro-Trump float to participate in their parade. The Chicago Dyke March asked three persons carrying Jewish flags to leave.