An hourlong delay in Sunday’s Twin Cities Pride parade caused by a protest against police failed to quell the festive, forgiving mood among thousands of participants and spectators, including police officers securing the parade.
“I think it’s a fantastic celebration,” said Kelsee Williams, 26, who attended the celebration of all things LGBTQ on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis with a friend, Rose Kelly, 26, whom she met when they were students at Wayzata High School. “This is a great opportunity for people to get together and be proud.”
Carli O’Donnell, 15, and Jade White, students at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Plymouth, praised the accepting, merry atmosphere.
“I wanted to be part of something that is welcoming,” White said.
Among the 149 floats, vehicles or marching parade units was a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow with a large sign proclaiming, “We clear snow for all people.”
This year’s parade also featured a first: a group from a Twin Cities church with a primarily black congregation.
Kingdom Life Church, a northwest metro congregation led by Pastor David Keaton, sent a contingent to support the Pride event, just as it supports a number of other causes and ministries.
Keaton, in a Sunday telephone interview, said Dennis Spears, a Twin Cities actor and singer who is a member of Kingdom Life, organized the church volunteers. He said the New Testament calls on Christians to love their neighbors and treat them with dignity and respect.
“Church has always been a place where some people have been made to feel excluded,” Keaton said. “It’s not our place to condone or condemn. That is up to God. Our job is to express the love of Jesus Christ, and to stay morally centered.”
The mood stayed high even during the protest, which delayed the parade’s start down Hennepin Avenue for about an hour.
Minneapolis and Metro Transit police officers on security duty chatted with parade watchers, accepted bottled water from participants and chuckled with appreciative onlookers as a couple of flamboyantly outfitted Delta Air Lines employees danced up a storm with paradegoers during the delay.
Shooting is focus of protest
Well before Saturday night’s fatal police shooting of 31-year-old Thurman Blevins in north Minneapolis, the Justice4Jamar group had declared that it would interrupt the parade with a long list of demands. That shooting became the focal point of Sunday’s protest.
Through the years, the Pride parade has often served as a local site for expression of views about broader cultural issues. In 2017, it was briefly stopped by protesters after a controversy about whether uniformed police officers should participate in the parade — they had been hastily excluded, then hastily reinvited. In 2016, it provided a place to mourn for the victims of a gun massacre in a gay nightclub in Florida. In 2013, it was the focal point of celebration over Minnesota’s legalization of same-sex marriage.
This year, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told Minneapolis officers not to march in uniform, but officers not in uniform were allowed to participate and to wear rainbow shirts with police badge designs on the front.
On Sunday, inclusion was the overriding theme, protest or no.
“Pride, not prejudice,” declared parade attendee Michael Peterson. “All communities get together. People from all walks of life. That’s a good thing.”