NYC Pride Board Overrules Membership, Maintains Ban on Uniformed Cops

Uniformed police officers will remain banned from Heritage of Pride events.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Less than a week after Heritage of Pride (HOP), or NYC Pride, announced a ban on police contingents through 2025, the organization’s members voted on May 20 to allow the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) to march armed and in uniform — but HOP’s executive board subsequently stepped in and set their own policy.

In the end, HOP’s executive board voted to maintain the ban on GOAL members marching armed and in uniform, though the organization is “willing to discuss the possibility of GOAL as a contingent marching out of uniform.”

In a letter to membership following the meeting, HOP’s executive board set the policy “in an effort to be mindful and focus on our mission of creating safe space for marginalized communities.”

“It fell under our purview to do so, as elected representatives of this organization, and we firmly believe that this decision is in the best interest of our community,” HOP’s executive board wrote.

During an emotional meeting with general membership, co-chair André Thomas told members that his resignation letter would be in their inboxes on Friday, according to a HOP spokesperson. But there has been no written follow-through and it is by no means a done deal, according to HOP.

In the May 20 letter to members, HOP also said “The NYPD, and policing across America, is fundamentally flawed. These are institutions that started as slave patrols, and continue to oppress Black, Brown, Indigenous, POC, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals who stand at the intersections of these identities.”

When reached by phone on May 21, GOAL president Brian Downey applauded the rank-and-file members of HOP who backed GOAL at the meeting.

“We are very grateful to the membership of Heritage of Pride for their vote in supporting us in doing the right thing,” Downey said. “We are still disappointed with the executive leadership of Heritage of Pride and their stance on our participation.”

Downey said members have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the question of whether GOAL would be willing to participate in Pride without uniforms.

The latest developments follow HOP’s explosive announcement on May 15 when the organization unveiled a ban on correction and police officers from participating in NYC Pride events through 2025. HOP’s annual march is going virtual again this year, but there will be some limited in-person festivities.

In addition to GOAL’s participation at HOP events, the other issue at hand is the role of police officers working at Pride. In HOP’s initial announcement on May 15, the organization announced that it would “take steps” to keep police officers at least one city block away from events “where possible” and described plans to use private security and safety volunteers trained in de-escalation. That same day, the NYPD said “we’ll still be there to ensure traffic safety and good order during this huge, complex event.”

On May 19, HOP’s co-chairs and NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison met “to open a dialogue” about HOP’s policy pertaining to police.

Following that meeting, HOP tweeted, “Our conversation was productive, though not conclusive, but opens the door toward greater reform. The safety of event attendees is paramount, and the NYPD will continue to provide the services they have in past years, but with increased emphasis on community affairs personnel. The NYPD will work on continuing to reduce visibility at NYC Pride events… NYPD leadership is committed to reeform and dialogue with the community about making changes. Additional details of reform will continue to be a part of further discussion.”

That issue was not mentioned in HOP’s letter to members following the May 20 meeting, but further meetings are planned to discuss the organization’s policy.

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