Republican Aurora mayor and Illinois gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin will not participate in the city's Pride Parade next monthand the city will withdraw its float, NBC Chicago reported.
The developments happened after organizers asked participating police officers not to wear their uniforms or carry their service weapons during the event.
Irvin also announced that the city's raising of the Pride flag, which has traditionally been done in conjunction with Aurora Pride, will now be an event held solely by the city. "We have worked diligently for years to strengthen relationships between our police and the community without painting Aurora with the broad brush of a national narrative," Irvin said in a statement.
Aurora Pride organizers had offered a compromise to police after announcing the decision to not allow officers to march while carrying weapons or wearing their uniforms, suggesting a "soft uniform" approach instead. Organizers of the parade said that they had made the uniform and weapon requests because they wanted to make the parade "the most welcoming environment possible," and said that "trust between police and LGBTQ people and people of color" is extremely low.
However, Aurora is not the only city undergoing such a situation. Democratic San Francisco Mayor London Breed will not be marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade if police cannot, KRON reported. "I support the LGBTQ members of our public safety department who are calling on the Pride Board to reverse its ban on uniformed members of law enforcement from participating in the Pride Parade," Breed said in a statement. "I love the Pride Parade, and what it means for our LGBTQ community and for our city. It's one of my favorite events. However, if the Pride Board does not reverse its decision, I will join our city public safety departments that are not participating in the Pride Parade." [UPDATE: Breed will now march in the parade.]
The Pride Board's decision has drawn criticism from LGBTQ+ police and sheriff's deputies who have urged the parade to change its policy.
In addition, Chicago officers will not be marching at all in the city's June 26 Pride Parade due to a staffing shortage, Politico noted.
"It's nothing political. We're sad not to take part. It's the first time we've had to miss," Jamie Richardson, president of the Lesbian and Gay Police Association, told Politico. "It's just bad timing."
Below is Aurora Pride's initial press release:
Part of the mission of the Aurora Pride Parade is, and always has been, to create a safe and welcoming space for celebration by, of, and for the LGBTQ community of Aurora, the surrounding area, and our allies. To do this, we look to have the widest variety of participants possible, from all walks of life, professions, and backgrounds. We've had student groups, businesses, supportive religious organizations, medical organizations, government organizations, law enforcement, musical groups, elected officials, and the list goes on. We want to showcase the idea for LGBTQ youth that if you can see it, you can be it. There's no one way to thrive as an LGBTQ adult.
This year, to further this goal, after much discussion, we made the decision that while we would continue to allow and encourage participation in the Aurora Pride Parade by law enforcement officers, we would ask that they participate without service weapons (our rules forbid all weapons), out of uniform, and without the presence of any official vehicles.
Why did we do that?
In short, many members of the community feel uneasy in the presence of official law enforcement vehicles, as well as uniformed officers, due to negative experiences they themselves or someone they know have had. Some of these experiences may be with the Aurora Police Department, some may be with other departments. APD is absolutely ahead of many other departments, but there's still work to be done. There will already be uniformed officers and vehicles present outside the parade route, and we want the parade route to feel as welcoming as possible for everyone.
Historically, the relationship between police and the LGBTQ community has ranged from oppressive and violent, to contentious, to friendly. At Stonewall, police and LGBTQ people, primarily of color, were in open combat. Today, we're fortunate to have out LGBTQ people working at all levels of law enforcement.
In the 2018 and 2019 parades, we allowed uniformed officers, and official police vehicles, to be part of marching units. We did this both to welcome our LGBTQ siblings within law enforcement, and as an attempt to build bridges. Closer relationships between police and the community have the potential to build trust, improve police effectiveness, and make both the community and officers safer.
In 2022, the climate has shifted. Relationships between police and community members are more strained than they were 3 years ago, in Aurora and nationwide. There continue to be incidents of harassment and violence, primarily focused on people of color and LGBTQ people. We recognize that these incidents are the result of a minority of officers, but law enforcement organizations as a whole are not addressing these incidents in ways that build trust with the community. APD is absolutely ahead of many other departments, but there's still work to be done. A lack of trust in the people sworn to protect breeds fear, and we feel that we must stand with those in our community who've been victimized. Aurora is a majority minority city, and the rights of people of color, LGBTQ people, and those who live both identities need their rights protected. At this time, that means asking our LGBTQ and allied siblings in law enforcement to participate out of uniform. We do not make this decision lightly, or in a vacuum. We are not the first Pride organization, nor I suspect the last, to take this stance this year.
It is not our intention that anyone hide anything about who they are or what they do. It's our hope that law enforcement participants clearly identify themselves with a banner, float, t-shirts, or the like, as we want to show that law enforcement is one of many things LGBTQ+ young people can see themselves becoming one day. We'd see this as a meaningful opportunity to improve community engagement and build trust. We viewed Indivisible Aurora and Aurora Pride's interactions and partnership with APD in past years as very positive, and exercises in bridge building, and I think both the community and APD need this to continue. While we are critical of the actions of some officers and the weaknesses in police organizations, we appreciate the good work done every day by good officers, risking their lives to make everyone safer.
Sadly, as of this writing, only one law enforcement official has applied to participate in the Aurora Pride Parade. We hope more will follow, and we welcome their applications.