Sadiq Khan says ‘messy’ Pride in London needs an urgent ‘reset’ – but defends police marching

London Mayor Sadiq Khan during the parade at Pride in London 2019

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has told PinkNews that Pride in London is a “mess” and needs to be “reset and refreshed” amid roiling accounts of racism riddling its now-former leadership.

The floodgates were torn open after the non-profit’s top Black volunteer, Rhammel Afflick, resigned from his post earlier this month, accusing the leadership team at the time of “ignoring Black voices”.

His tinderbox departure emboldened dozens to quit Pride in London, including its oversight body, the community advisory board, and spark a firestorm of criticism that prompted its co-chairs and three other senior staffers to quit.

For Khan, who has led the beloved parade each year since 2016, a sense of shock and optimism.

He explained to PinkNews that as much as Pride in London has long been an “amazing event” that sees millions flood the capital’s snaking streets to attend, “we can’t run away from the fact we there have been some real issues raised about the lack of inclusivity.”

The 50-year-old said of the controversy: “Pride in London is a mess.”

“It’s really important that we reset and refresh how Pride in London is organised,” he continued.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan during the parade at Pride in London 2019 on July 06, 2019 in London, England.

London mayor Sadiq Khan during the parade at Pride in London 2019. (Tristan Fewings/Getty)

“I’m looking forward to members of the community coming together and putting themselves forward to be part of the recovery mission because the damage done to the reputation of this community is perfectly surmountable.

“We can repair the damage because we’re gonna make sure that Pride in London goes from strength to strength, rather than it being a source of sorrow and division.”

The solution to heal these long-festering wounds, Sadiq said, won’t be easy, nor will it be a “one size fits all” approach.

In looking forward, Sadiq said that if he is reelected in May, his office will fully cooperate with Pride in London’s new leaders to ensure the event “continues to be a success but, this time, without some of the issues”.

Sadiq Khan ‘understands’ concerns over police presence at Pride in London

One issue flagged which came to be a particularly tense flashpoint for many since-departed volunteers, the decision by Pride in London’s board to let the Metropolitan Police Service, the capital’s main force, march in the parade.

Following a community outreach scheme in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the community advisory board suggested bosses ban the police from Pride, citing grievances held among Black and POC queer folk, the board’s former chair Ozzy Amir told PinkNews.

Bosses rejected this advice and voted to allow the Met’s queer staff network, LGBT+Network, to continue marching at Pride.

“Pride in London took the decision they did, which we [the board] felt went against their stated values against the commitments they’ve already made in public,” Amir said.

Earlier this month, the entire community advisory board team quit in protest against the “widespread hostility” towards Black and POC volunteers within the organisation, they wrote in a joint resignation letter.

Such concerns that have long simmered among Black queer activists, Sadiq Khan sought to stress, are completely “understandable”.

“I fully understand the concerns some communities in London have about the police,” he said. “I remember in previous decades, many of the police being accused of being homophobic.

A police officer wearing rainbow epaulettes at Pride in London

A police officer wearing rainbow epaulettes at Pride in London. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)

“Anybody who saw It’s a Sin, for me, it brought back memories of some of the policing against the gay community in the 1980s.

“Similarly, I’m well aware of some of the concerns around the Black Lives Matter movement, around Black Londoners and the lack of trust and confidence in the police.

“The way I put it is, I’ve met and I know many members of the Met Police Service who are from the LGBT+ community and them being able to march in Pride gives them a sense of solidarity and a sense of belonging.

“And they’ve played a pivotal role in not just breaking down the barriers and the police service, but the police making the progress they’ve made in relation to, rather than being seen as an ‘anti’ towards this community, seen as an ally.”

Sadiq said he is “pleased and proud” of his work alongside Met commissioner Cressida Dick in “rooting out” anti-LGBT+ hate crimes. He emphasised that it is the police that “look into and investigate” hate crime complaints.

“I appreciate there are differences of view here,” he added.

“What I’m hoping is that the new Pride in London team work together to try and make sure that Pride in London can be as inclusive as possible, but not lose the rich history of has been a political movement, or being an opportunity to raise issues of concern to the community as well.”

The Labour mayoral candidate’s comments come after he vowed to make London the first city in the world to end new HIV transmissions.

Sadiq Khan announced the pledge on Thursday (25 March) as part of his manifesto, which will be released in full next month ahead of the mayoral election in May.