Pride organizers scale back police presence in parade

Organizers want to “respect the pain the community is feeling” following Castile verdict

Twin Cities Pride Festival organizers announced this week there will be limited participation by law enforcement in this year’s Ashely Rukes LGBT Pride Parade.

The decision was made in the wake of the June 16 verdict delivered by a Ramsey County jury that cleared Jeronimo Yanez, a former St. Anthony police officer, of all charges in the shooting death of Philando Castile. Castile, a school lunchroom worker, was killed during a July 2016 traffic stop.

In a Facebook post, Twin Cities Pride Executive Director Dan Belstler and External Relations Manager Amy Brockman explained that there would be “one lone unmarked police car starting off the parade” as required by ordinance but otherwise “limited police participation in the parade itself.”

The choice was made to “respect the pain the community is feeling” over the verdict in the Castile case, they wrote.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau expressed her disappointment in a June 22 letter to Belstler that she also shared on social media. Harteau wrote that it sent a “message of division and not inclusion,” adding that it left many in the community feeling hurt, including LGBT members of her department.

Regardless, the officers assigned to the parade “will do all they can to ensure it is a safe and successful event,” she wrote.

Even before the Castile verdict was announced, Pride organizers had already discussed plans to scale-back the police presence this year compared to the year before.

In 2016, there was a heightened law enforcement presence at the parade, which took place just weeks after a gunman killed 49 people and himself at a gay nightclub in Florida. The June 12, 2016, incident at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

While some found the additional law enforcement officers reassuring, Pride organizers said some parade participants — particularly people of color and transgender people — were made to feel less safe.