MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Twin Cities Pride says it will limit police presence and participation in its annual parade and other festivities this year in response to the verdict in the Philando Castile case.
Typically, several police departments roll down Hennepin Avenue as the first contingent in the parade to make sure the route is clear and announce that it is about to begin. But this year, Twin Cities Pride says they will have a lone, unmarked police car, as required by law, starting off the parade and there will be limited police participation in the parade itself.
Twin Cities Pride says they decided to forgo part of the police participation in the event this year to “respect the pain the community is feeling” in the wake of the verdict, which found Officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty on all counts in the fatal shooting of Castile.
“With the Twin Cities Pride Parade and Festival drawing about 350,000 people each year, we are doing our best to balance the concerns of the community and our concerns for making this family-friendly event a safe and welcoming place for everyone to attend,” organizers wrote on.
Organizers say they will be scheduling a listening session for later this summer to discuss planning for future Pride events.
Meanwhile, many officers are disappointed with the decision.
"It was really kind of a slap in the face that they're going to [disinvite] all the officers that were going to participate in the parade, many of which provide security and are also there to show support," said Thomas Hawley, a local police captain. "I no longer have plans to go to that event of to participate in any way, shape or form unless the board reverses their decision immediately."
Though many like Hawley are appalled, the move follows reported concerns from hundreds of LGBTQ community members.
Darcie Baumann, Twin Cities Pride board chair, said the organization is "kind of between a rock and a hard place" at this point.
"The reason that trans and gender non-conforming people of color have fear of the police is that we have been targeted by the police," said Rox Anderson, board chair of Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition.
Anderson said that the first Pride event in 1970 was set to commemorate the Stonewall riot and rise against police brutality.
However, Stephen Rocheford, the CEO of Lavender Magazine - an LGBTQ publication that circulates across Minnesota and western Wisconsin - couldn't disagree more with the response to the Yanez verdict.
"To take that and apply that to policemen who had nothing to do with it is wrong, it's discriminatory," he said.
The Twin Cities Pride Board maintains that security at the festival - which kicks off Friday - won't be affected by the decision.
Statement From the Saint Paul Police Federation President Dave Titus
"As an organization, supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, the Saint Paul Police Federation was disappointed to learn the 2017 PRIDE Parade will not allow officers to march after years of participation.
"Twin Cities Pride, as an organization preaches inclusion and equality for everyone in the community, to exile gay and straight officers from the parade runs counter to the values the organization claims to promote. This blatant exclusion of police officers by parade leadership exemplifies ignorance towards our profession and community members supportive of us.
"Moving forward, the Saint Paul Police Federation will continue to support the LGBTQ+ community and Pride Month activities, but this slight has not gone unnoticed by our members."
CASE FILE RELEASED: Philando Castile shooting dashcam video