Why cops and firefighters won't march at San Francisco Pride this year

A contingent from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence participates in the annual LGBTQI Pride Parade on Sunday, June 25, 2017 in San Francisco, California.
A contingent from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence participates in the annual LGBTQI Pride Parade on Sunday, June 25, 2017 in San Francisco, California. Photo credit Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
By and , KCBS Radio

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – Neither San Francisco Mayor London Breed nor the city's biggest law enforcement agencies will march in this year's Pride parade after organizers banned police and sheriff's employees from marching in uniform.

After the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance and LGBTQ members of the San Francisco Sheriff's Office and fire department announced on Monday that they wouldn't march at all in the parade, Breed said in a statement she wouldn't, either, as long as the ban remains in place.

"Their presence in uniform serves as a message to others across the country that San Francisco values diversity and inclusion in our public safety departments, and in our city," Breed said of LGBTQ officers.

Breed added that she hopes organizers will change their decision, which doesn't bar first responders and law enforcement from marching in the parade, just from doing so in uniform.

"That uniform in the past has meant oppression to them in certain ways," Suzanne Ford, Executive Director of San Francisco Pride, told KCBS Radio.

"We've asked the police to show up in a certain way to do some harm reduction so members in our community would feel safe," Ford said. "If we allowed the police officers to indeed march, they would march in a different way."

The mayor said she understands the "pain" of police violence, but that she grew into someone that believes that reducing violence, and building trust, requires bringing law enforcement into the community, into our lives, into our events and activities."

"The board decided to punish LGBTQ+ peace officers for the failings of others," the Pride Alliance said in a statement. "This is its own form of prejudice and further erodes the tenuous relationship between peace officers and the communities we keep safe. This decision ignored the history and accomplishments of LGBTQ+ peace officers, who made the SFPD and the SFSO more inclusive through their bravery and visibility."

Fire department spokesman Jonathan Baxter said their committee had been hard at work preparing for this year's parade prior to Monday's announcement.

"We were applauding each other for getting swag material and getting our event booth for recruitment established and getting our placement in the parade," he told KCBS Radio on Monday.

However, when San Francisco Pride's board of directors decided to ban police officers from marching in uniform, that work stopped. Though they are still allowed to march out of uniform, both police officers and firefighters – who were not part of the ban – decided they will not march at this year's event at all.

"Unanimously, immediately, we made the decision to tell our administration we will not be marching in solidarity with our brothers and sisters," Baxter said.

The fire department's decision to withdraw was co-signed by its chief, Jeanine Nicholson, who is openly lesbian. Baxter said she supported the withdrawal "without question."

He argued that the board's decision misses the point of Pride, which is inclusion.

"If we're truly talking of harm reduction we need to set the example in San Francisco,” he said. "We need to allow the public to see that our uniform law enforcement officers are good. They do reflect our community and they are here for you."

"Next year is the pride committee going to say that the leather community needs to wear flannel, because leather can be scary or oppressive to others?" Baxter added.

Despite not marching in the parade, police will still be on patrol at the festival.

San Francisco Pride this year will return to an in-person celebration for the first time since 2019, taking place June 25-26 at Civic Center Plaza and the surrounding neighborhood.

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