Atlanta Pride asking LGBTQ+ community if police should participate in parade

Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - The largest Pride parade and festival in the southeast is back. Atlanta Pride, which attracts nearly 300,000 people over a three-day span, is slated to begin Oct. 7, 2022, but this year’s parade could look very different.

“Police presence at Pride has been a hot topic for many years,” said Jamie Fergerson, executive director of Atlanta Pride.

This year, Atlanta Pride is debating whether to allow police to participate in the parade outside of the necessary security measures that need to be in place for an event of this size.

In many parts of the world today, Pride has grown into a celebration of diversity - but at its core, it’s really a commemoration of a riot against police brutality within the LGBTQ+ community at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969. Some believe this history mirrors that of the Black Lives Matter movement of today - and they question police participation within this year’s events.

Atlanta Pride hopes to answer that question through a survey it launched on the start of June’s Pride Month.

“This applies generally to participation in the parade as an entrant,” said Fergerson. “We’re looking at armed or uniformed police officers participating in that capacity and not as community members.”

Fergerson said the queer community’s relationship with Atlanta Police has improved in recent years. In fact, officers walked in the parade before COVID put festivities on hold for two years.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies welcome police protection during the parade and festival but feel there needs to be a balance.

“That’s not what we need. We need action and protection and laws that are put into place that are protected by our police officers,” said Natasja Hirabayashi of Atlanta.

“I think police presence at something like a pride festival is necessary, any festival really, just to kind of mitigate the threat of whatever,” said Crystal White of Atlanta. “But I feel like the parade should be to celebrate the things that are essential to the community. And I don’t know that police have always shown themselves worthy.”

Aside from police participation in Pride, Fergerson with Atlanta Pride said other vital topics need to be addressed within the LGBTQ+ community. The survey of more than 50 questions also asks about access to health care and adequate housing.

“We really look to see where we can move the needle forward on equity, on justice, inclusion. Particularly for those folks who have not been included,” said Fergerson.