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Utah Pride Center’s festival is back, but not without discord over police presence

Pride Parade, June 2018
Alex Gallivan, Gallivan Photography
Courtesy Utah Pride Center
Kevin Randall, the Utah Pride Center’s communications manager, said the nonprofit is trying to maintain and build a relationship with the Salt Lake Police Department.

The Utah Pride Center’s festival is back after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus. The other thing making a return — uniformed police officers. The center announced that police would “not only march with [them] but will serve as escorts and security during the festivities.”

And that set off a flurry of criticism among community members.

“Pride itself is founded on the fact that police were doing harm to our community,” said Kat Kellermeyer, an advocate and former volunteer for the Utah Pride Center.

Kellermeyer said this goes back to the Stonewall riots in 1969 when the New York City Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village.

“There are just so many members of our community with such storied pasts with law enforcement that have not come to a healthy conclusion,” they said. “Their [wounds are] still open. The knife is still in the back.”

The vision for this year's festivities is to “provide the community with a place to show and express pride, to celebrate together [and] to have fun,” said Kevin Randall, the Pride Center’s communications manager.

The police are involved for logistical reasons as well, he said. The Salt Lake Police Department will direct traffic and lead the parade to clear streets. Randall said it also speaks to the center’s goal to be more inclusive.

The pride week committee also voted to allow Police Chief Mike Brown to be in the parade and march alongside other officers.

“Chief Brown has identified himself as a strong ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and so we saw no reason why to not allow him to be a paid entry, just like everyone else,” Randall said. “Another thought to this is that the Utah Pride Center seeks to build bridges between the police department and the LGBTQ+ community, as well as communities of color.”

Some advocates, including Kellermeyer, criticized the move on social media. They say that the center’s inclusivity of police is excluding members of their own community.

“It feels like an insincere response,” Kellermeyer said. “It feels ignorant at its most benign and transphobic and honestly cruel at its worst.”

The Salt Lake Mutual Aid group will host a Pride without Police June 10 event as an alternative, saying they “[recognize] that the police state has always been and will always be an enemy of the queer liberation movement.”

The center has heard the concerns and Randall said they’re also trying to build and maintain a relationship with law enforcement.

“If people are wanting to make an effort to align with the mission of the Pride Center and show support for the LGBTQ community, we're not going to stop them,” he said. “We empathize with you, we understand where you're coming from. At the same time, I don’t know if you saw, Salt Lake City Police posted a picture of a police badge with rainbow colors on it.”

Salt Lake Police Department spokesman Brent Weisberg said they’re proud to be a part of the parade and want to understand the community’s concerns.

“The Salt Lake City Police Department is an inclusive organization,” he said. “We want to support our community. We want to support our LGBTQ+ employees. They are our family and so we want to make sure that we represent and we support them during this time.”

The pride parade is scheduled for Sunday, June 5, 2022, at 10 a.m.

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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