A Community Responds to Pride, Police, and Protest

Whether on social media, via email statements, or in-person interviews, Madison’s LGBTQ community has made its various thoughts and feelings known in response to the controversy around police at Pride. We’ve worked to compile some of those responses below, as a way to paint a more comprehsive picture of the ways in which we grapple with an intensely complex and emotional issue—and to show how diverse those positions are.

OutReach’s official statement  

To Queer/Trans People of Color (QTPOC), as well as the LGBT+ community at large, we hear you, loud and clear, and hold ourselves accountable for the hurt that we have incurred related to the issue of police in Pride.

Our community is facing complex, unprecedented times, where power is a fleeting commodity for our most vulnerable members, especially queer and transgender persons of color. In times like these it is crucial that we listen to those whose voices are not often heard in the mainstream. Those whose voices are silenced due to gender and sexual orientation, as well as the intersections of race, class, ethnicity, gender, ability, immigration status, age, and lack of institutional power, need us to amplify their voices.

It is with this recognition that the OutReach Board of Directors have unanimously decided to withdraw the Pride Parade applications from the Madison Police Department (MPD) Employee Resource Group (ERG)/University of Wisconsin Police Department (UWPD) ERG, and Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney. These contingents will not march in the 2018 OutReach Pride Parade and we will be refunding all monies collected from the contingents. We hope that our actions help to create meaningful dialogue between the police, the ERG’s, the Dane County Sheriff, and the QTPOC and greater LGBT+ community they are serving.

This decision supersedes our previous position detailed in our statement released on August 3, 2018.

Armed, uniformed MPD officers will continue to work security for the OutReach Pride Parade as our City of Madison Parade Permit requires. We invite off-duty, unarmed, plain clothes MPD and UWPD officers, Sheriff Mahoney, and their families to attend the parade and rally as members of the LGBT+ community and allies. We also invite off-duty, unarmed, plain clothes LGBT+ members of the MPD and UWPD to march as LGBT+ civilians in the parade.

We recognize that not everyone will be happy with this decision. It is our hope that those who are hurt by this decision use that hurt for growth and to approach that hurt with humility, rather than retaliate or create further divisions between those with institutional power and those struggling to exist.

These issues are complicated, and we know that this will not be solved in one day, one week, or

perhaps even within a year. However, it is our hope that our actions draw attention to the gravity of the situation, and that our calls to action do not fall on deaf ears.

We encourage those interested in creating a dialogue attend the Madison Police Department’s MPD Pride Listening Session Monday August 13 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Madison Central Library in Room 301.

We know that there is more work OutReach must do within the LGBT+ community. We hope through our actions we can repair fractured relationships and reaffirm the mission and values of the organization.

Instead of apologies or excuses, we offer a promise. We promise to do better by the LGBT+ community through action.

Thank you for your support,

Michael Ruiz

OutReach Board President, on behalf of the OutReach Board of Directors

Community Pride Coalition’s official response  

Fellow community members and organizations,

The Community Pride coalition, formerly known as Alternate Pride, would like to share its appreciation and thanks with OutReach LGBT Community Center for their decision to not allow police contingents at this year’s Pride.

Through their newly released statement, OutReach has chosen to take this important, first step to give a meaningful apology, a promise to repair harm done to the most marginalized in our community, and an effort to engage in concrete actions that foster full inclusion and liberation for all LGBTQ+ individuals.

To our friends, supporters, collaborators, and comrades, we want to make it crystal clear that we have earned an important victory. We took a stand and demanded that OutReach rescind their invitation to the Madison Police Department, the University of Wisconsin Police Department, and Dane County Sheriff Mahoney, and we won.

In light of OutReach’s decision, Community Pride will march as a contingent in this year’s parade. We will continue our call to oppose police at Pride in future years and across the nation. We also will schedule an organizing meeting for all who want to join us next week. We know there will be backlash to this decision, and that is part of why it is important to march in the parade and defend this victory.

Queer and transgender people of color still experience silencing and erasure from our movement and fight for queer and trans liberation. QTPOC still face systemic racism and police brutality. Our movement, leaders, and advocacy and support organizations need to do better across the board.

Meetings will be organized and resumed in September to encourage deep reflections and conversations about race, privilege, and racism within the queer community. We invite all in our community to join in on these important discussions, which will hopefully guide our collective future actions towards justice and liberation. We would love to see everyone organizing together in the days ahead.

It is important that OutReach joins these crucial conversations. We also hope that OutReach will invite QTPOC to take the lead in organizing future Pride events. QTPOC lit the spark of our movement at the Stonewall Inn, and we need QTPOC to be at the center of our movement’s future. Without liberation for QTPOC, there cannot be liberation for all.

The police drove a divisive wedge into our vulnerable community. Now is the time for celebration of our victory, pride, and moving towards collective community healing.

In solidarity,

Community Pride

OPEN’s statement  

We at the Out Professional Engagement Network (OPEN) believe it is important to respond to OutReach’s decision to withdraw applications by local law enforcement to march in the Pride Parade. This decision has sparked a tremendous emotional reaction. Rather than fracture and divide our community, we hope to issue the challenge to rise to the occasion and begin the process of healing and reconciliation between the LGBTQ community and officers. As an organization, we have a responsibility to bring together representatives from throughout our communities with diverse perspectives to have a challenging yet meaningful dialogue to move us from a state of reaction to being proactive in making change.

We know that the LGBTQ community, especially our members who are queer and/or transgender people of color (QTPOC), are suffering harm and pain, and that their concerns have not been well-heard and addressed in the mainstream. Our goal as an advocacy organization is to break the cycle of marginalizing voices in our community. More importantly, when police misconduct occurs, it disproportionately targets the most marginalized people in our community. Given that reality, it is understandable that QTPOC and other members of our community are often fearful of law enforcement. When officers wear their official uniforms, that reaction is particularly powerful—even if the officers happen to be members of the LGBTQ and/or QTPOC communities. This problem is not just about the Pride Parade. It is about the relationship between law enforcement and our community.

We want to thank local law enforcement for their statements of acceptance regarding the parade decision and about their desire to further discussions in our community about the deeper issues involved. We are grateful for the support that our community receives from our law enforcement agencies, and we know that we can build more connections with them through these efforts.

As we mentioned at the Madison Police Department listening session on August 13, OPEN feels it is imperative to bring all interested parties together to address this larger issue going forward, not just to reach a properly-informed consensus on how to handle law enforcement’s participation in the Pride Parade, but to find ongoing and substantive ways of building trust and better relationships between our communities and the police. With that goal in mind, OPEN will be facilitating community-based strategy sessions and similar forums to engage in deeper discussions to build these much-needed connections. We are asking EVERYONE to participate in this. We need you. ALL of you. This work cannot happen in the few days we have left before the Parade. It has been said, “Change moves at the speed of trust.” We are committed to the long-term work ahead of us.

Over the past several years, our Pride Parade has become a source of joy, love, and kinship. As such, we feel withdrawing support from OutReach or the Pride Parade is unproductive in furthering the goal of improving the relationship between our community and police officers. Our community deserves the joy of Pride, and the work that needs to be done will last long beyond this upcoming Pride Parade.

We need longer tables, not higher fences. We’re ready to get to work.

Orgullo Latinx LGBT of Dane County’s response  

Orgullo Latinx LGBT+ of Dane County has been participating at the Pride Parade since 2014 when OutReach LGBT Community Center took the leadership of this great community event. Over the years, OutReach has done an amazing job organizing this event and has created the space where the community feels welcomed, loved and accepted.

Every year Orgullo Latinx looks forward to its participation at this parade for the following reasons:

-As an opportunity to make a public statement that the LGBTQ+ Latinx community is a strong and thriving community in Dane County.

-As an opportunity to expose the Latinx community to a large LGBTQ+ event.

-As an opportunity where the Latinx LGBTQ+ community feel welcomed, safe, loved and accepted.

-As an opportunity to witness the love, respect, unity and compassion among every group.

We are aware of the disagreements that have risen since OutReach LGBT Community Center withdrew the parade application from the Madison Police Department, University of Wisconsin Police Department and the Dane County Sheriff. We have also been following some of the circumstances and issues that caused this to happen.

We at Orgullo Latinx have gone back and forth regarding our participation in this year’s parade. At the end, we have decided to participate in the parade, but we have decided we are not going to support either side of the debate. We have decided to participate for the sake of UNITY. It has been heartwrenching to witness our community divided in such a destructive manner. Orgullo Latinx is not going to be part of that. Period. Instead, we are eager to participate in any future dialogue to find a solution to the current situation and to create healing.

Currently, our Latinx community has been going through so much due to massive deportations, family separations, and a growing anti-immigration sentiment in this country. Our community is already exhausted. The color of our skin, our countries of origin, and our sometimes thick accents have been the cause of discrimination and exclusion. We have always found refuge within our LGBTQ+ community. During the times when our own Latinx community is discriminated against, our LGBTQ+ community was always there ready to welcome us and support us.

Orgullo Latinx of Dane County hopes that the annual Pride Parade can once again be a place where the whole LGBTQ+ community feels welcomed, loved, included and respected. We hope that this is an opportunity for all of us to value everything we have achieved as an LGBTQ+ community in Dane County. We trust that we will be able to move forward and come out stronger from this.

COMMUNITY VOICES

Cedric Johnson – Member of the QPOC Pride planning committee 

“I’m sensitive to the issue of police brutality against black and brown bodies. It’s been three years since my cousin was shot and killed by a police officer in Rockford, Illinois, and the family still seeks justice for his murder,” he told Our Lives. “As a queer Black man, the anxiety of when and how someone might inflict pain on my body is at the back of my mind whenever I walk down the street. It can be exhausting, and knowing who is an ally helps assuage those fears. Which is why I was discouraged to hear about the protest of the OutReach Pride Parade over MPD participation. Do I support the right to protest? Yes. Do I carry anger towards law enforcement for their systemic attack on people of color? Absolutely. Is there work to do? Absolutely. But how do we, as a community, advance the conversation about justice without trust first and foremost? I don’t necessarily trust every police officer I see, but if one of them stands with me to honor the struggle of queer people—or people of color, or people who struggle with mental health issues—then at least I know who is willing to build that trust. I know who is ready to help with the heavy lifting and who’ll stumble along with me towards a solution. We will disagree. We will argue. But we can also celebrate the minor victories along the way, together.”

Dana Gordon Rowe – Community activist

LGBT organizations in the area are being called to uphold an intersectional social justice mission and growing pains are being felt in various spaces. There are plenty of people wondering why POC and their allies have been so vehement in calling out organizations that are already doing good work, work that is already hard and frequently thankless.  

Many of us have wondered if this is the way and if potential allies are being alienated from our cause. Supporting marginalized groups can feel socially risky and that can lead us to question how much to commit. True allyship comes from believing a marginalized group of people when they tell you they’re being treated unfairly, and agreeing that it is unacceptable. 

The reality is that the police are an incredibly powerful institution. Strong and clear allyship from gatekeepers is needed for folks to feel safe accessing resources and community spaces. There are obviously LGBT individuals and POC who are employed as police and related functions. I refuse to see those folks as allies when they are appearing as agents of an institution that is inherently problematic for people of multiple identities. People who have their bodies, rather than their actions or intent, criminalized.

My friends who are championing this issue right now are not really calling to new allies. They are calling to us who already juggle many issues to spend some time throwing this issue above other work. To those of us who are moderate in expressing their opinions but already having these conversations with those close to them—it is time to take these conversations public.

Montell Infiniti Ross – Mr. Gay Madison 2018

You know, as I’ve been kind of staying quiet in regards to the whole fiasco going on in Madison,  I felt as a queer person of color that it was time that I speak up and share my thoughts and views.

One thing I have always loved about Madison, and a huge reason why I’m Mr. Gay Madison, is because of the love and inclusion I have always felt since day one! I find it very strange that we have “LGBT” organizations standing so strong against the very individuals that are called first when we, as the LGBT community, face harassment, violence, or situations based on being who we are. Now, as a Black person, I will say I’ve never once felt that my equal rights were second guessed by the Police Dept./Sheriff Dept. in Madison. 

I actually feel safer while in Madison (being someone who resides in Milwaukee) just because every single time I’ve come in contact with a police officer the first thing I get from them is “Hey, how’s it going?” Not a funny look, not a “suspect possible” look, not an “unsafe while being black” look…so I’m baffled on how individuals are standing and protesting against them. What really blows my mind is the fact that these are non-POC standing strong against them being included in something that they support, protect, and serve! Madison, you can do better!

How is it that we as a LGBT community decide who’s included and who’s allowed to participate in something that is meant to be all about inclusion? How is it that we decide, “No, you’re not good enough to march with us, but you’re good enough to stand as security and protect us?” Sorry, but that’s ass**** backwards! This new day and age has really transformed our community to not be who we’ve claimed to be, which is a community of LOVE, a community of SUPPORT, and a community of INCLUSION. We’ve now moved into picking apart the very space that we’ve always felt secure, safe, and allowed to be us.

Ali Muldrow – Co-Executive Direcor, GSAFE

At GSAFE I am the only person of color in the office. And I am the first black person to have an executive role within the organization. I think that it’s easier for LGBTQ+ organizations to point the fingers at the police than to address their own history of racism. There’s something strange to me about having a bunch of majority white organizations say they won’t march with the police as an act of Racial Justice and Solidarity. 

I personally am not against the police; I am against racism, I am against racial disparities, and I don’t think any singular role, position, or work assignment is responsible for the racism of America.

I believe firmly that divide and conquer has no benefit. I believe that we must work together and refuse to treat one another as disposable. Does removing the police from the Pride parade make me feel safer? No. Will it lead to job opportunities for communities of color within LGBTQ organizations? I don’t think so. To me this about white folks who are passionate about being seen as champions for racial justice but are not particularly concerned with or interested in supporting people of color in real, substantial ways.

Corey Gresen – Co-owner, Plan B nightclub

I have a ton of gay/queer officer friends that have every right to be proud of being gay and proud to be a police officer for Madison. By asking them not be proud of both identities in my opinion is harmful to the community as a whole. Would you deny another class of people that have multiple facets to be proud of, to celebrate, not to participate because you have a issue with their line of work? Though they did nothing wrong at all? 

This is absurd and more divisive and harmful than helpful. When you are ready to accept everyone and all they can be proud of then please join us to celebrate Madison’s prideful diversity and community. Until then please stop sending these hateful messages. I don’t appreciate them.

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