The Twin Cities Pride parade, one of the largest such celebrations in the country, will look a little different this year. In a misguided decision born of raw emotion, festival organizers have told police they are not welcome to participate — the result of the verdict in the trial of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed Philando Castile during what should have been a routine stop for a broken taillight.
The decision was made without organizers even reaching out to Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau, the first lesbian to lead that department. Harteau was grand marshal at Pride several years ago. This year, she will not be welcome to even walk in the parade she once led.
The Yanez verdict is painful beyond words for many in this community. There is much to be done to repair relations and heal divisions. This is not the way. The officers who serve as the parade’s color guard, who proudly march in it — often because they are themselves members of the LGBTQ community — pose no threat to paradegoers. They are there because they care about that community.
Adding insult, organizers said on Facebook that their security plan still includes “some police, unarmed security guards and unarmed safety volunteers.” So apparently organizers are fine with officers laying themselves on the line should an emergency arise, but they are not to be allowed the simple dignity of actually participating in the festivities. There can be no pride in such a decision.
It’s always wrong to judge an entire group by the actions of an individual. Are all police to be judged by Yanez? Or perhaps by Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner, a lesbian who risked her life to save Republican congressmen who came under fire in Virginia last week?
Communities of color have a right to demand better treatment by law enforcement. Too many people of color have died during such encounters to say otherwise. It is understandable that some have gotten to the point where they fear any encounter with police. Despite that, the only way forward is to continue working for improvements and, yes, rewarding the behavior we want to see more of. That includes welcoming police who care enough to participate in the Pride parade. No greater understanding is attained, or bonds strengthened, when everyone retreats to separate corners. There is too much of that in this country right now.
Harteau, in a letter to organizers on Thursday, said she was “beyond disappointed that you didn’t feel you could talk with me before making such a divisive decision that has really hurt so many in our community including the LGBT members of this Department (and their family members).” Poignantly, she adds, “I really struggle to see how this decision helps our community heal … . Police officers are more than just officers they are humans with families who are also part of this community.”
Late Thursday, parade organizers were discussing whether to reverse the ban. They should follow through on that. This weekend should be a time for unity, pride, acceptance, understanding. Don’t mar it with an ugly decision.