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Down Route 66: Aurora police show they’re not LGBTQ allies

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Hopefully, you’ve been following our coverage of what’s been going on in Aurora. If not, let me catch you up.

Aurora Pride asked Aurora Police Department officers who were marching in the Pride Parade, meaning directly participating in it, to not wear their full uniform with weapons or drive police vehicles. Aurora Pride has said repeatedly that officers are more than welcome to participate, wear APD t-shirts and polos, carry banners saying Aurora Police Department, and take full part in the parade. They were simply asked to not wear the full uniform with weapons and Kevlar to help reduce discomfort for parts of the community that do not have good experiences with the police. That includes Black people, most POC and LGBTQ people, even in 2022. A small request, right?

Tom Wray, Editor

Nope. Now the APD can’t find enough volunteers or hire enough people to maintain security. The parade is this Sunday, June 12. Aurora Pride has been working with the city of Aurora, including the police, since January. But four days before the parade, no police can be found who are willing to work security. Also, any police who would actually be patrolling the parade, and not participating in it, would still be in full uniform. The police then gave Aurora Pride two days to find enough police from other areas to make up the 20 person shortfall. Aurora Pride couldn’t.

Since security is suddenly an concern, the parade permit has been revoked. The Pride parade for the second largest city in the state, and the largest Pride parade outside of Chicago, is now in doubt.

All because, just over a week ago, Aurora Pride had the audacity to ask “Maybe not wear the Kevlar?”

Despite saying, repeatedly, that they are not banning anyone, Aurora Pride has been accused of doing just that. Their Facebook feed, group and event are getting filled with people calling the group “bigots” for the decision. A few have said they were dropping their support for the parade because of the “discrimination.”

So much to unpack here., But I’m gonna try.

Being a cop is a job, not an ethnicity, gender or orientation. It is a job people choose to do. I would go as far to even call it a vocation like being a teacher or writer. And I will even go as far as saying that it can be part of an identity. But it’s not the same as being Black, trans, a woman or gay. It’s just not. Police don’t deal with higher rates of poverty, less access to resources and education, less pay simply because of who they are. They got a choice whether to be a cop or not. I didn’t choose to be gay.

Police departments are often the largest single budget item for local governments. In Chicago, they take up more of the budget than anything else, including a school system serving 500,000 students. When New York City cut a billion dollars from the police budget, the police still had a billion, with a B, in their budget. That doesn’t even cover settlement payouts for police misconduct.

Being asked to not wear a uniform is not the same as being banned. They. Were. Never. Banned. It is also not an attack.

It is, at most, the least amount of accountability possible. Don’t wear something that could make other people uncomfortable. That’s all. That’s all that was being asked. I have t-shirts that have naked men on them. I don’t wear them out in public because it would make people uncomfortable. It’s not a huge sacrifice. But for some reason, asking police not to wear uniforms, when they won’t even be on duty, is a horrible imposition.

How is that? I am honestly asking. How is not wearing the full uniform while marching in a privately-run event an attack on police? If you’re identity is that wrapped up in the trappings, maybe you shouldn’t be the one protecting people.

The first Pride, Stonewall, was a riot. It was literally a riot. Buildings burned, injuries, police cars flipped over, three days of street fighting between LGBTQ people and police. Started when a Black lesbian demanded to know why we weren’t fighting back against a force that beat us every chance it got.

A lot has changed since then, yes. Police aren’t, necessarily, our enemy. That does not mean police are on our side. When they can push to get what is actually a pretty large event cancelled because they weren’t catered to enough, they are not our friends.

If anything, Aurora shows that police can be good only if you’re nice to them, and then only on their terms. That is not allyship. That is an abusive relationship.

It is especially galling for it to happen when the country as a whole is trying to drag us back 50 years. Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have be introduced across the country, even here in Illinois. Every single one of our neighboring states has passed laws that marginalized LGBTQ people, especially kids. We’re being called pedophiles and “groomers” just for saying we exist. In our own state, there are efforts to remove books and discussion of our existence. And the Aurora Police are pissed because they were told to wear a t-shirt?

“The Aurora police are progressive, they’re okay.” Bullshit. If they were actually good, they would work with a community for it to feel safer. They would not throw a petty fit and try to cancel Pride.

“There’s LGBTQ cops, what about them?” They chose their side. There are a lot more POC in the LGBTQ community who have been victimized by police than there are gay cops. I’m gonna side with the ones who don’t take a fashion request as an attack.

Police in this country, especially in this state, have a bad history of abuse and misconduct. Yeah, not every cop is like that, but until they get rid of the cops that are, we do not know which are the good ones and which are the bad. We have no choice but to treat all as a potential enemy because the odds are not zero that they can harm us.

Until police actually work with the communities they are supposed to protect, they will remain an antagonist. They are the ones who enforce the laws, they are the ones with the power. The burden is on them to change.

Until then, they are not allies. The Aurora Police have just shown that.

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