SPD, Seattle Pride clash over decision to ban uniformed officers from marching in Pride Parade

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz wrote a letter to Seattle Pride Parade leadership, expressing frustration with the organization’s move to keep police from attending. He said SPD employees will not be marching in the event.

Specifically, Seattle Pride’s executive board said they will not permit "police uniforms, police vehicles, any police insignia, or police propaganda to walk in any parade contingency." 

U.S. law enforcement and the LGBTQ community have a historically strained relationship, and many consider the Stonewall Riots—the police raid of a New York City gay bar in 1969 that erupted into violence—as the start of the gay liberation movement, which has since evolved into the larger LGBTQIA+ movement.

American domestic policy after World War II sought to suppress perceived "communist," "anarchist" and "subversive" influences, which the U.S. State Department extended to gay men and lesbians.

Policing at the time was greatly informed by this approach, and was used to sweep queer gathering places, arrest people and expose them in newspapers in the era of McCarthyism and the Red Scare.

Seattle Pride’s executive board said it is the Pride movement being "birthed from a riot against police brutality" that led them to disallowing police symbols or uniforms at the parade.

Diaz said Seattle Police’s own LGBTQ sworn officers have marched in past parades in uniform.

"They’ve marched, while acknowledging the pain the policing profession has inflicted on the LGBTQIA+ community in the past, and that all law enforcement can do better, including SPD," wrote Diaz.

According to Diaz, the Pride board’s decision was "met with sadness" by SPD’s more than 100 LGBTQ members.

"The Executive Board’s decision is especially hurtful because other city workers will be allowed to participate in uniforms or insignia that identify their department, but not SPD," wrote Diaz.

In response, Seattle Pride issued a statement reiterating that SPD employees are not banned from attending – they are simply asked to attend out of uniform "as a show of respect for the LGBTQIA+ community which has experienced much trauma at the hands of uniformed officers over a long history of criminalization of queer people and police violence against marginalized groups."

Organizers say their decision was also informed by a May 2021 survey of 1,300 community members, who asked that police not be allowed to march.

Diaz said he and other employees met to discuss this decision, ultimately concluding that they would not attend the parade at all.

"Given the long history of tension between our community and law enforcement, the letter we received from SPD highlights a lack of understanding, and it blatantly disregards the concerns of our larger community – highlighting why so many Pride organizations here and nationally are restricting uniformed police participation," reads the response from Seattle Pride.

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Organizers argue that publicly sharing the letter puts a spotlight on the LGBTQ community and Pride Parade, saying it invites more targeted threats and violence.

Seattle Police will still be at the parade to provide security, especially in the wake of threats in Coeur d’Alene and Anacortes, Diaz said, but SPD employees will not march in the parade.

You can read the full letter on the Seattle Police blotter website.