Jun 1, 2022 - News

Atlanta Pride debates police presence at annual LGBTQ+ parade

Illustration of a police uniform standing with no person inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Atlanta Pride organizers are asking the city's LGBTQ+ communities whether they’re comfortable with uniformed Atlanta police participating in the popular event’s parade.

Driving the news: Today, festival organizers are sending a survey to community members about how the event should engage with police outside of those required to provide security.

  • In addition, Atlanta Pride is hosting focus groups throughout the summer with Latino, trans and Black leaders along with other members of the city’s LGBTQ+ communities to gauge their opinions.

Catch up quick: Around the country, organizers of Pride events are reconsidering whether to let police participate.

  • Event organizers cite recent police killings of Black Americans, as well as Pride's origins in commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Riots — which began as an uprising against police — as reasons to keep officers out.

Details: Jamie Fergerson, the executive director of Atlanta Pride, says the issue has divided community members, a significant portion of which has served in law enforcement and others who expressed discomfort around armed people in uniform.

  • “We have to strike a balance between making a safe area from people who don’t like us and making an area where there is a minimal chance of any sort of inappropriate police behavior.”

Fergerson, who says she remembers one year when an officer providing security along the parade route called her the “f-word,” says Pride’s relationship with APD has improved over the years.

  • The event has reduced the visible presence of long rifles and doesn’t allow paid private security performing basic crowd control or festival operations to be armed.
  • Organizers request that officers who want to march in the parade to support LGBTQ+ causes wear City of Atlanta pride shirts and walk with the mayor’s contingent.

History lesson: APD’s fraught relationship with the LGBTQ+ communities was rebooted after officers' controversial 2009 raid of the Atlanta Eagle bar in Midtown.

The big picture: The oldest pride festivals turned 52 this year, and across the country, organizers are reassessing how to best serve their communities — especially now that the hard-fought battle to win the right to marry ended in 2015.

  • “There’s a little bit of a crisis of identity among all of the [older and more established festivals]... Who are we going to be in the next season of our lives?”

Of note: Axios Atlanta could not reach organizers of Atlanta Black Pride, another LGBTQ+ group that‘s held a separate festival since 1996, before publication.

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