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Black Lives Matter Backs Out of Pride Over Large Police Presence

The festival’s celebration of racial and economic justice will go on without them.


In the days since 49 people died at the Pulse club in Orlando, SF Pride organizers have worked feverishly with SFPD to beef up security for this weekend’s celebrations. But those preparations have alienated some Pride-goers of color: Festival honoree Janetta Johnson told the Guardian that she’s “more afraid of police than terrorists.” Today, it all came to a head when Black Lives Matter officially backed out of SF Pride’s celebration at City Hall—whose theme is (irony alert) “For Racial and Economic Justice.” The group had been scheduled to act as a community grand marshal, with a speaking slot and a spot in the parade.

“We could not, in good conscience, partner with those who have coordinated Pride with a theme of ‘racial and economic justice’ while that same event is being so highly policed,” says Black Lives Matter Bay Area’s Malkia Cyril, who is executive director of the Center for Media Justice.

This is the first time in Pride’s 46-year history that participants will have to go through metal detectors and submit to a bag search (not to mention some TSA-like restrictions on bag dimensions). Cyril points out the the list of prohibited items, which includes things like too-large bags and shopping carts, could keep homeless and underhoused members of the Black Lives Matter community from participating in the celebration. 

There will also be an increased police presence made up of both uniformed and undercover officers. A statement released by Black Lives Matter explains: “For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence.” Cyril calls the latter “too much of a risk” at Pride, citing recent officer-involved-shooting deaths such as Mario Woods. The group will still participate in events that are outside the secured zone. 

Sam Singer, SF Pride’s spokesman, could not be reached for comment. 

Although Cyril stressed that Black Lives Matter Bay Area was honored to be named a grand marshal, they are skeptical that the Pride Committee’s decision to increase law enforcement presence will keep people of any color safe. “We know deep it in our bones that anybody, including a police officer, could be the purveyor of violence,” Cyril says.  


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