Organizers of the Pride Parade announced Wednesday that they would prohibit uniformed San Francisco police officers from marching in the 2021 event in response to a clash between officers and demonstrators last year.
The San Francisco Pride board of directors made the decision more than a year after the “episode of police violence at the 2019 Pride Parade” after learning the Department of Police Accountability dismissed excessive force allegations “on the basis of insufficient evidence,” according to a statement from the group’s board president Carolyn Wysinger and executive director Fred Lopez.
“Although the ongoing COVID pandemic has put the future of large-scale public events in doubt, we have concluded that in 2021 we cannot welcome the participation of the San Francisco Police Department’s Pride Alliance — which is to say, uniformed SFPD officers marching as a parade contingent,” the statement said.
The board said they “deliberately chose not to act in haste” and to work within the police grievance process to hold officers accountable for the “wholly unnecessary escalation into violence.”
“After a year-long process, it appears there will be no consequences for either the department or the officers involved,” the statement said. “Needless to say, SF Pride is disappointed and frustrated.”
The board acknowledged several efforts the police have taken “to heal decades of mistrust between the department and the city’s LGBTQ+ communities,” but said “such actions are merely symbolic unless accompanied by real change.”
Next year’s Pride Parade will continue to rely on police officers for security, which they provide for all city-permitted public events.
Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner that he was “disappointed in the Pride Board’s decision.”
“I believe it is important for our members to participate in Pride Month activities so we can show firsthand that we are a diverse department, that we are proud of who we are and that we are willing to work closely with the LGBTQ community we serve,” he said.
Tony Montoya, president of the Police Officers Association, also criticized the board’s decision.
“It is the height of irony that our Pride parade would be used as a wedge instead of as an opportunity to work toward improving police and community outcomes,” Montoya said. “The fact that this organization would also discriminate against our LGBTQ police officers who want to build bridges to the LGBTQ community and SFPD, is completely disheartening.”
During the June 30, 2019 parade, demonstrators locked arms to block off Market Street, calling for the removal of police and “toxic corporations” from the celebration. They had intended to block the procession for 50 minutes to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the New York Police Department raiding a gay bar and violently clashing with demonstrators in what became known as the 1969 Stonewall Riots.
San Francisco Pride board said Wednesday that the police officers improperly reacted to the demonstrators, including by failing to give organizers an opportunity to first respond, as is their protocol for incidents of protests.
“Before the Pride team could speak with the demonstrators, several officers of the San Francisco Police Department unexpectedly and rashly overreacted to the disruption, swarming the area and leading to a larger scuffle,” the statement said.
A police spokesperson said at the time of the incident that protesters “broke down barricades and threw water bottles at officers as they rushed onto the parade route.”
“At least one subject actively fought with officers during the incident and one officer sustained non-life threatening injuries,” the spokesperson said then.
San Francisco Pride initiated the Department of Police Accountability investigation into the officers’ conduct by filing an excessive force complaint.
One of two protesters arrested during the 2019 protest also filed a lawsuit last month against the officers, alleging excessive force and retaliation.
The lawsuit alleges officers shoved Taryn Saldivar, then 21, without cause, while they were standing on the sidelines of the protest. They were on the ground when an officer yanked and broke their cane, dragged them into the street and “violently” arrested them, causing them to sustain injuries, according to the lawsuit.
Saldivar was cited on suspicion of battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest and interfering with a parade route and the District Attorney’s Office charged Saldivar with misdemeanor resisting arrest.
However, Pride organizers met in February with District Attorney Chesa Boudin to ask for the dismissal of charges against the protesters, according to the statement.
“The DA listened, and the charges were dropped in March,” the statement said.