Lesbian police chief angered after officers ‘banned’ from Pride

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A lesbian police chief has spoken out after uniformed officers were “banned” from marching at Pride.

The controversial decision was taken by the organisers of the Twin Cities Pride Parade at the last minute, ahead of the parade which takes place on Sunday in Minneapolis.

Parade organisers released a statement addressing police presence at the event after the trial of police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was acquitted of manslaughter charges over the shooting of African-American school worker Philando Castile during a traffic stop.

By local law, the Pride parade has to be led by a police car clearing the route for vehicles and floats.

Lesbian police chief angered after officers ‘banned’ from Pride

The event is usually opened by a large contingency of police cars in the role, but organisers say they will only permit a single unmarked car this year due to the Castile case.

The statement explained: “”With the recent verdict in the Philando Castile case Twin Cities Pride has decided to forgo this part of the police participation in the parade for this year and respect the pain the community is feeling right now.

“There will just be one lone unmarked police car starting off the parade and there will limited police participation in the parade itself.”

The parade organisers also reaffirmed that there will be no contingent of uniformed police officers marching in the parade.

They added: “We hope this helps ease people’s fears about police participation in the parade.”

The decision has upset Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, who is lesbian, sent an open letter objecting to the decision.

In a letter, the police chief – a former Grand Marshall of the Pride parade – voiced anger that LGBT cops would be excluded.

She wrote: “I hate spent the past couple days taking in as much information as I could regarding all that has been said about officers not being welcome to march in this year’s PRIDE parade.

“Understanding the magnitude of recent events, I truly wanted to reflect on your decision.

“I am 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 those who serve and protect throughout our state.”

She added: “I really struggle to see how this decision helps our community heal and the message of division and not inclusion is hurtful to many of us.

“Police officers are more than just officers, they are human beings with families who are also part of this community.

“I know historically, our minority communities have had struggles with police interactions; that is why we’ve worked so hard to build relationships that I still feel are both valued and respected.

“It is one reason I was so proud to lead the Pride parade as Grand Marshall three years ago.”

Darcie Baumann, chair of Twin Cities Pride, defended the decision.

She said: “Unfortunately, we have hurt and offended the LGBTQ police officers, and that was not at all our intent.

“But in the wake of the verdict, we want to be sensitive to the population that is grieving. Seeing those uniforms brings angst and tension and the feeling of unrest.”

It is not the only Pride where police will be banned this year.

Pride Toronto also took the unprecedented step this year of banning LGBT police officers from participating in this year’s Pride parade, after a highly controversial clash with Black Lives Matter protesters.

Last year the parade was disrupted by BLM protesters who criticised the event’s alleged “anti-blackness”, and only agreed to let the parade continue when Pride Toronto organisers signed a “contract” agreeing to a string of demands.

The demands included a ban on police officers marching in uniform, and a ban on police floats or stalls. At Pride Toronto’s AGM, a vote on the demands was held, with board members narrowly deciding to agree to ban police.

In a show of defiance, the US-based Gay Officers Action League invited Toronto’s police officers to join them during NYC Pride instead.