GLAA Statement on Capital Pride Protest
June 15, 2017
At this year’s Capital Pride Parade, a small group of individuals chose to engage in protests that caused delays and made it necessary to reroute the parade twice. As GLAA understands the statements released by this group, their primary demands are: greater diversity on the board of the Capital Pride Alliance; restrict all corporate branding and signage in future Capital Pride events; an end to corporate sponsorship of Capital Pride by organizations such as banks and defense contractors; and the exclusion of police officers and members of law enforcement from participating in Capital Pride events. Generally, the leadership of GLAA acknowledges that direct action is appropriate where no channels of communication or opportunity for dialogue exist. In this instance, we do not see evidence indicating that there is no opportunity for discussion to build consensus on ways to improve Capital Pride.
As we examine the membership of the Board of Directors of the Capital Pride Alliance and consider the demand for a more diverse board, we agree that this is an area that should be reviewed. Historically marginalized populations–such as women, people of color, queer and trans individuals, the economically disadvantaged, and those differently abled, among others–must be empowered to participate fully and equally in our community’s institutions and events. The question that GLAA has is what should the board look like if it is truly diverse? This is where community consensus needs to be found. What can be done to create a consensus around what this diverse board would look like and how to achieve it?
Regarding corporate sponsorship of Capital Pride, there is a strong argument to be made in favor of more stringent vetting of sponsors before accepting donations. We believe that corporations that have been poor corporate citizens in their stewardship of the environment, their business practices, and their ethics should not be allowed to use their support for Pride to gloss over behavior damaging to the LGBTQ community and other populations. Nevertheless, a successful and inclusive Pride requires financial resources, therefore a complete elimination of corporate branding and signage in future Capital Pride events is an unreasonable expectation. However, we support calls for higher and clearly articulated ethical standards for participating corporations’ environmental stewardship, conduct, and policies.
In response to demands to exclude the Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement organizations from Pride events, we disagree with this position. While we share the protesters’ concerns about the way police brutality and misconduct issues disproportionately affect marginalized populations, we believe this approach is counterproductive to the continued improvement of the state of community-police relations in the District. Progress is rarely a straight line, progress has set backs. The need to forge ahead does not negate the importance of recognizing progress being made.
Cities across the United States (and even across the world) turn to the District for a roadmap to a rigorous, transparent, and effective civilian oversight of the police. There are structures of accountability in place to deal with police officers in the District who engage in misconduct of any kind. We acknowledge that this was not always the case in DC, which is why GLAA was part of the broad coalition that helped to bring about the Office of Police Complaints (OPC) whose role in police oversight was significantly expanded as a result of the passage of the NEAR (neighborhood engagement achieves results) Act earlier this year. We understand that people living in different areas of the District experience police encounters differently, and we at GLAA are committed to increasing the awareness of police accountability measures available to civilians. We appreciate the steps taken by MPD and the LGBTLU to respond to community concerns regarding police participation in Capital Pride, including officers’ decision to march without their uniforms, and we encourage further dialogue.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge that work remains to be done. We recommend that anyone who has had an encounter with a law enforcement official involving misconduct of any kind immediately file a complaint with OPC to launch an immediate and impartial investigation. The Office of Police Complaints also has a toll-free hotline (866-588-0569) that allows citizens to initiate police misconduct complaints 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Thank you.