Black Lives Matter will not take part in the San Francisco Gay Pride Sunday in response to the increased police presence at the event, the organization announced in an official statement.
"The Black Lives Matter network is grateful to the people of San Francisco for choosing us, we choose you too,” said Malkia Cyril, a member of Black Lives Matter.
"As queer people of color, we are disproportionately targeted by both vigilante and police violence. We know first hand that increasing the police presence at Pride does not increase safety for all people. Militarizing these events increases the potential for harm to our communities and we hope in the future SF Pride will consider community-centered approaches to security at pride events.”
Black Lives Matter were joined in dropping out by Grand Marshal Janetta Johnson, Executive Director of the TGI Justice Project—an organization defending the rights of incarcerated Transgender and intersex folk.
“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.
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 & economic justice which we sought to march under proudly.”
The move comes a week after Grand Marshals of the New Orleans Pride Parade, BreakOUT! announced they would not be marching because increased law enforcement made its members—predominantly young Trans people of color—feel unsafe to do so. In addition to a 25 percent increase in local law enforcement, both in uniform and undercover, federal law enforcement agencies are also scheduled to be on site at the Civic Center events.
“In the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, Black communities experience real fear and terror at the hands of homophobic and racist vigilantes and law enforcement,” said Shanelle Matthews, Director of Communications for the Black Lives Matter network. “We are working every day to find solutions and we know the militarization of large-scale events only gives an illusion of safety. We are choosing to do the real work of building safe communities.”
The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Celebration is considered the largest gathering of LGBTQ people and supporters in the U.S. Since 2014 it has included over 200 parade contingents.
The event is traditionally held over the last full weekend of June to commemorate the Stonewall rebellion of 1969, when the LGBTQ community—led by Trans and people of color—like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera rose up following police raids on the Stonewall bar in New York.