Portland Pride Parade Wants Cops To NOT Be In Uniform
Organizers of Portland’s annual “Pride Parade” have issued an unusual request; They’re asking for LGBTQ+ police officers who plan on taking part in the parade to NOT be in uniform. This comes three days before the parade.
Debra Porta, executive director of Pride Northwest Inc., confirmed the organization made the “difficult decision” to ask law enforcement officers marching in the parade to consider not wearing their uniforms.
She said in the recent weeks, some LGBTQ community members have become more vocal about concerns they have marching with police officers in uniforms.
“There is a lot of symbolism that goes with that uniform,” Porta said, speaking by phone Friday morning.
She said there’s been a “history” between LGBTQ community members and law enforcement both in Portland, and nationally, that hasn’t always been the best.
“We still run into issues,” she said. “This is a history that we all need to own, figure out how to navigate and somehow navigate together.”
In the letter sent to PPB and MCSO, Porta writes “…we are asking LGBTQ and allied people in law enforcement, who plan to march in the Portland Pride Parade NOT to march in uniform.”
But police officers and county sheriff’s deputies who are part of the LGBTQ+ community seem to feel insulted by request.
“To me, Pride Northwest is trying to put us back in the closest,” said Portland Police Capt. Bob Ball. “To take away the strides that we’ve made (as an organization) is hurtful.” He said 1996 was the first time he marched in Portland’s Pride parade as an openly gay reserve officer.
Some Portland LGBTQ officers blasted the request as a backward and contradictory move that essentially sends the message: Hide who you are.
Lt. Tashia Hager wrote on Facebook that she won’t shy away from wearing her uniform during the parade.
“Today I learned I was asked to step back into a closet by a group of people who should know better,” she wrote on the social media site. “I have been a part of the gay community in Portland for 25 years. I would like to think that the ideals of inclusion and acceptance are not only what the gay community preaches but it is also what it practices. To fail at this endeavor is a hypocrisy that I cannot ignore. I am proud to be a Portland Police Office where my sexual orientation has been more widely accepted than it has in our community at large.”
Hager told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she felt “sad and mad” when she first learned of Pride Northwest’s request.
“To have my own gay community tell me to hide a part of who I am seems to be against everything they stand for,” she said.
Retired Portland police officer Lisa Clayton also sent an email to Pride Northwest, voicing her dismay.
“I am disgusted at your political pandering. … I thought inclusion and acceptance was part of your mantra? ” Clayton wrote. “Your thinking is: You must hide that part of your life that we don’t like or agree with, come out and be out as long as you conform to that which we think is acceptable. Since when is being a wonderful, respected, loving, kind, generous gay woman not acceptable? Oh yeah when you are a Portland Police Officer.”
The concerns came from some LGBTQ members after the police response to the dueling protests in downtown Portland on June 4 that brought out alt-right supporters of President Donald Trump and several groups of counter-demonstrators, she said.
Police used flash-bang grenades and pepper spray balls after they said some people threw bottles and other objects at them. They ended up arresting 14 people. Mayor Ted Wheeler has asked Police Chief Mike Marshman to explain the reason for some of the tactics.
“It’s not as simple as saying times are changing,” Porta said.
“We absolutely recognize the work and effort that our LGBTQ officers have put into getting to where they are, in being out and proud in their profession,” she added. “While issues around marginalized communities (including LGBTQ) and law enforcement have always been there, in this current unsettled time, particularly with the recent protests and police interactions in Portland, the concern has just become more visible and vocal.”
Multnomah County Sheriff, and Bloomberg owned puppet, Mike Reese sent this letter to his deputies, kowtowing the request and bailing from participating in the parade:
Dear MCSO,We have a long-standing tradition of marching in the Portland PRIDE parade. As an organization that supports diversity and inclusiveness in both our workforce, as well as in our community, participating in this event serves as an opportunity to engage our LBGTQ members and community members alike.Late this week I received the attached correspondence from PRIDE NW, indicating their preference that uniforms not be worn by law enforcement officers planning to march in the PRIDE parade on Sunday. I subsequently contacted Debra Porta, Executive Director of PRIDE NW, to gain a better understanding of the request.On Thursday, Debra Porta and I met and had a very respectful conversation about the long-standing tradition of MCSO participation in the parade, the importance of PRIDE events to our members, and the broader relationship between the community and public safety agencies.Through our conversation I learned of concern within their organization that some members of the LBGTQ community feel a uniformed presence in the parade might create unnecessary tensions.After our conversation, and thoughtful consideration, I have decided that MCSO will honor the preference of PRIDE NW. It is their event and we will not be participating in the Portland PRIDE parade this year. This was a difficult decision for me to make as I am proud to wear our uniform and I know you are as well at this event. But, I believe it is important we consider the perspectives from all sides of this request.The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office has been and will continue to be an inclusive organization that supports and reflects the diversity of our community. I know many of you look forward to this event and if you want to participate in the parade as a private individual, I encourage you to march in plain clothes with the Multnomah County delegation.We will continue to be a uniformed presence in the security detail assigned to the parade and as members of the Alliance for Safer Communities booth at the PRIDE festival. I will attend the event in uniform as part of the security detail.Thank you for your understanding of this change so close to the day of the event. I hope that through honoring the preference of event organizers and taking time to engage in respectful dialogue we will build a lasting relationships of trust.Michael ReeseSHERIFF
Hello from Pride Northwest. We are the 501c3 nonprofit organization responsible for the annual Portland Pride Waterfront Festival and Parade. We are writing to our LGBTQ and allied law enforcement members, regarding what we absolutely recognize is a sensitive and complex issue for the full diversity of LGBTQ people.These are interesting times, to say the least. There are issues that have long simmered below the surface that have come out into the open, which must be addressed. There is and has long been significant divisions within our community. Our goal is to create a space that will allow for furtherdialogue and connection between all members of our community, to build a stronger and more unified people.Those of us over the age of thirty recognize the courage and perseverance that it has taken, to reach a point where you are able to be out and serving in the capacities that you do. We absolutely honor that. At the same time, we are also very aware of the history between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community. And that is a history that remains unresolved, particularly for our LGBTQ people of color and Trans identified. So, we have two things true at once. LGBTQ people have made tremendous strides, in being able to serve in law enforcement as out individuals AND we have a great many in our community still traumatized and targeted by law enforcement, as a whole.Given both of these things, we at Pride Northwest, as the entity entrusted to represent and honor ALL of our community, find ourselves caught in the middle. We have been approached by many in ourcommunity, who don’t feel safe at their own Pride, with a great many planning not to participate at all. Our hope is to use this unique position, to foster a way forward. Without going on about whata way forward might look like, because we know it isn’t about a single act or conversation we are in this forthe long haul, in helping in some way, to find connection and healing in our community.While a single act is not the end of the story, we believe that they can carry significant impact and a strong message. Whether it should be this way or not, the reality is that many of our people do not see a person behind the badge they only see a uniform, and that is where the connection ends. To that end, we are asking LGBTQ and allied people in law enforcement, who plan to march in the Portland Pride Parade NOT to march in uniform. Maybe wear department polos or other shirt something besides the uniform. To be clear, we are NOT asking you not to march. We even recognize that you are likely authorized for conceal/carry we would expect you to follow whatever protocols you typically have there. We are simply hoping to bring down some of those barriers in our community. Please NOTE: NO member of law enforcement will be denied or turned away from the parade. Our only ask, based on all of the above, is to consider the potential of not doing so.Thank you for listening and for giving serious consideration to this request. We know that it is not an easy subject, and likely somewhat painful. It is our hope that you will join us in looking at a larger picture and the potential for what we can accomplish, in bringing down a barrier that quite often prevents the conversation from ever even getting started. We love you and honor your LGBTQ identity and all that this entails.Thank you.Sincerely,Debra PortaExecutive Director, on behalf of the Board of DirectorsPride Northwest, Inc.