Aurora Pride last week said LGBTQ police could join the Pride Parade, just not in uniform.
In a press release published on Monday, May 23, Aurora Pride said they encourage law enforcement officers to participate in Pride, just without service weapons, out of uniform, and without the presence of any official vehicles.
The organization, which produces the annual parade, said that many community members feel uneasy with uniformed police because of past experiences. There will still be police and vehicles outside the parade route for security. Aurora Police did march in the last parade in 2019. However, they did point to increased tensions since then.
“There continue to be incidents of harassment and violence, primarily focused on people of color and LGBTQ people,” the press release stated. “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.” While Aurora Pride said that the local police department is ahead of others, they have decided to stand with community members who have been victimized.
Police can still have banners, floats and t-shirts identifying themselves as police.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin (R) criticized the organization for the decision. He’s also campaigning for the Republican nomination for Illinois governor.
“I am extremely distressed and disappointed to learn that you have chosen to ban uniformed law enforcement from participating in the annual Pride Parade this year. Under my administration, we advocated and authorized Aurora’s first Pride Parade in 2018,” Irvin wrote in a statement released Wednesday morning, according to the Daily Herald. “It is baffling how what is supposed to be an event focused on and celebrating equity, diversity and inclusion is now choosing to exclude others.”
Aurora Police spokesperson Paris Lewbel told the Herald that the department was also “extremely disappointed.”
Aurora Pride responded with an open letter to Irvin. They acknowledge the support of the city and police in past parades and again said they welcome participation by the police. But they stood by the decision.
“However, it is our responsibility as organizers to provide the most welcoming environment possible for the largest number of participants we can.”
Aurora Pride said that they want police involvement out of uniform was to help foster good will.
“Participation by law enforcement officers in civilian clothes, clearly identified as law enforcement officers by signs, banners, t-shirts, and the like, would almost certainly be perceived as an olive branch,” the letter stated.
Aurora Pride said no municipal law enforcement groups had applied to take part in this year’s parade.