The San Francisco Police Department’s Pride Alliance contingent is officially banned from participating in the annual parade. SF Pride’s landmark decision, announced Wednesday, comes more than a year after a violent response from police disrupted the 2019 Pride Parade, and after an extensive — but failed — attempt to hold the involved officers accountable for their use of force.
On the morning of the June 2019 San Francisco Pride Parade, as thousands moved down Market Street, a protest broke out. Activists barricaded the street at Market and Taylor streets, chaining their arms together to form a blockade. The parade was halted for nearly an hour, but few seemed to mind; it is, after all, a large party.
But SFPD’s reaction to the protesters, who had gathered peacefully, was shocking. Photos of the scene show a massive police response; at one point, six officers were photographed restraining and kneeling on Taryn Saldivar, a 21-year-old queer activist.
Saldivar, who uses they/them pronouns, and another protester, Kenneth Bilecki, 27, were arrested and charged with battery of an officer and obstruction of a parade.
Ironically, the protesters were arrested while demanding that Pride cease any relationship with police. “We will not rest until we have a Pride free of police and toxic corporations that do not support our communities,” a flyer from the protesters said.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of Saldivar states that police fractured Saldivar’s wrist, gave them a concussion, and partially dislocated their hip during the arrest.
In the months since the incident occured the Pride board says they’ve worked within the system to hold the officers responsible for their use of force. An appeal from SF Pride to District Attorney Chesa Boudin resulted in all charges against Saldivar and Bilecki being dropped. The Pride board also requested a review from the Department of Police Accountability (DPA) into the use of force from five responding officers, which took a full year. But in the end, the DPA dismissed all counts based on “insufficient evidence.”
“Needless to say, SF Pride is disappointed and frustrated,” read a statement released on Wednesday. “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.”
Carolyn Wysinger, the president of SF Pride’s board of directors and a Black woman, tells SF Weekly that kicking police out of the parade itself is the part they can control — the officers deployed to manage the event are a requirement from the city. But, she says, that too can be changed, if calls are heeded to reduce staffing numbers of police at special events.
“We have the control over who’s in the parade,” she says. “As a permitted event in the city we don’t have as much leeway over other police. There has been a call from advocates to lower the minimum staffing requirements of police at special events. For myself as an individual activist I would love to add my name to that call. That police presence lends itself to the militaristic feel of Pride. But that’s going to take a bit more work than we can do in one year.”
Going forward, Wysinger hopes that voices of queer people of color are centered and not co-opted in the discussion of police at Pride.
“The most important thing that people can do is really listen to those trying to put this information and these ideas out there,” she says. “There’s going to be a lot of folks within our own LGBTQ community who are going to be angry at us, the same way folks are angry at us that we didn’t do this sooner. We have to listen to Black voices and do the work of being better allies.”