Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Pride honorees withdraw from parade, festival

Two grand marshals and an honoree of this weekend’s San Francisco Pride parade have withdrawn from the event, citing increased police presence following the mass shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub.

Community grand marshal Janetta Johnson, organization grand marshal Black Lives Matter, and honoree St. James Infirmary announced their withdrawal Friday, June 24.

(SF Pride grand marshal Janetta Johnson has withdrawn from this weekend's Pride activities. Photo: Courtesy SF Pride)

(SF Pride grand marshal Janetta Johnson has withdrawn from this weekend’s Pride activities. Photo: Courtesy SF Pride)

“In light of the recent announcement that Pride participants would be subject to increased policing, metal detectors, and discretionary admittance, several grand marshals and awardees of the ‘racial and economic justice’ themed event are withdrawing from participation in the Pride parade or Civic Center activities because of the unsafe conditions created for our communities by law enforcement,” a news release stated.

“In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting that took the lives of dozens of queer, trans and gender non-conforming people of color, many people in our community are afraid,” the statement read. “For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence. We had a tough decision to make, and ultimately we chose to keep our people safe by not participating in any event that would leave our communities vulnerable to either.”

SF Pride and city officials held a news conference Monday where they announced the security changes ahead of this weekend’s events, including metal detectors and bag checks for people entering the festival area at Civic Center Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26.

The screenings are in response to the June 12 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were fatally shot and 53 were injured, SF Pride Executive Director George Ridgely said at the news conference with the mayor, police, and other city officials.

Johnson, executive director of the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project – an organization by and for trans, gender non-conforming and intersex people in prisons, jails, and detention centers – announced her decision to withdraw from the parade at the Pride media party Friday.

“While I am thankful for this honor, and grateful to Pride for bringing our work to the front this year, the decision to add more police to Pride does not make me, or my community, more safe,” Johnson said.

While honorees recognized the increased concerns about safety in light of the Orlando tragedy, several argued that a greater police presence would increase the likelihood of violence against queer and trans people of color.

“In the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, black communities experience real fear and terror at the hands of homophobic vigilantes and law enforcement, and we work every day to find solutions. We know the militarization of large-scale events only gives the illusion of safety. We are choosing to do the real work of building safe communities,” said Shanelle Matthews, a member of Black Lives Matter, who also announced their withdrawal from the parade.

The St. James Infirmary, which was slated to receive the Heritage of Pride Award at the main stage on Sunday, echoed the concerns of the grand marshals.

“LGBT sex workers are often victims of violence and exploitation at the hands of police,” said Executive Director Stephany Ashley. “The increased police presence at Civic Center, as well as the ban on shopping carts and items typically belonging to marginally housed and homeless people, will only make pride less safe and accessible to our communities. These policies do not reflect the theme of racial and economic justice which we sought to march under proudly.”

SF Pride officials did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

It is unclear what effect the new security measures will have on attendance this weekend.

Vick Germany, a self-identified butch dyke and co-president of Dykes on Bikes, said she has heard that some people will not be attending because of concerns about safety.

Dykes on Bikes, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will lead the Pride parade as usual.

– Sari Staver contributed to this report.

— Cynthia Laird, June 24, 2016 @ 2:01 pm PST
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