A difference of opinion
Should police officers walk in uniform at Pride parades?
Members of the Cape Breton Regional Police are invited to walk in the 2017 Pride Parade on Saturday in uniform or not, but the controversy surrounding cops in uniform is still there.
Here are two opposing views on the issue from members Cape Breton’s LGBTQ community.
Matt Campbell, a teacher and former Cape Breton Pride committee member, is for police officers walking in the parade in uniform.
“I just don’t think that exclusion is the right thing for our community,” he explained.
“If we want to be embraced, how do we reflect that by excluding others, when there are some from our own community, wearing those same uniforms?
“The chief of police in Corner Brook is a gay male. And he’s married. You’re telling him he can’t come and be proud.”
Pointing out that until the late 1970s it was considered illegal to be homosexual in Canada, Campbell stressed things have changed, including the LGBTQ community’s relationship with law enforcement.
“As that relationship has evolved, we’re almost stepping backwards by saying you don’t belong here in uniform,” he said.
“Every time we have a parade, there are uniformed police there, so they will be present regardless. What are we accomplishing by alienating the people whose job it is to serve and protect?” he added.
Campbell thinks having officers in uniform shows people in the LGBTQ community which law enforcement officials are allies and safe people to go to with concerns.
“Mayors who do walk in the parade, make a statement, without saying anything. It is meaningful … that kind of example needs to be set and that’s what having officers in uniform walk in those parades does; it sets the example that there are safe law enforcement,” he explained.
While Campbell recognizes that some visible minorities and transgender people may have had bad experiences with police, he stressed police who are discriminatory is a small percentage of the police force.
“I think it is a mistake to tie all police officers to the bad apples because there are bad apples in our community too,” he said.
Kate Krug, an assistant professor in anthropology and sociology at Cape Breton University and former Cape Breton Pride committee member-at-large, believes police officers in uniform should be banned from walking in the parade.
This was motivated by the protest Black Lives Matter (BLM) did at Toronto Pride in 2016. It moved her to tears.
“I thought, ‘wow, that is the best form of activism.’ They didn’t get loud. They got quiet. They sat down and said we need you to hear us. That for me was when it became important to say to my community here we need to tell them that we hear them.”
For Krug, banning police in uniforms is way to stand in solidarity with BLM and other minorities who feel threatened by the uniform.
“When racialized queers and Indigenous folks tell me that they don’t feel safe when these social institutions are represented and armed police are present … then my response is to say ‘well we will just minimize the presence of the armed police,’” she said, passionately.
“I’m not saying that individual police officers are evil incarnate … If they want to participate, I am all for them participating and identifying themselves as members of the police. I am not suggesting we should ban them, just the uniform.”
To her, if one part of the LGBTQ community doesn’t feel comfortable being at the parade because of uniformed officers, then the community isn’t being properly represented.
“We can’t be a queer community
if we can’t all be there,” she said.
In the 1980s, Krug walked in many Pride parades in Toronto, during a time when the Pride organizers couldn’t get parade permits. They would have to walk, almost defiantly, on the sidewalk because police couldn’t stop them from walking there.
“While I understand and recognize that Pride has become more celebratory and more carnival-esque in the 21st Century than it was in the 20th Century, the march itself has its roots as a deeply political act,” Krug said.
“If we forget where we came from there is a very grave danger that we can go back there,” she stressed.
Krug has started thinking maybe a good solution to the debate is to keep the uniform but ban the sidearm and other projectile weapons.
Overall, she thinks the whole debate helps keep the discussion about police and marginalized minorities open.
“We need to talk about the ways we still need to do something differently about the kinds of training and everyday practices for police and people who are intervening because there needs to be something more about how to de-escalate rather than respond with the use of weapons,” Krug explained.
“... I am all for them participating and identifying themselves as members of the police. I am not suggesting we should ban them, just the uniform.”
Kate Krug, an assistant professor in anthropology and sociology at Cape Breton University
Matt Campbell, a teacher and former Cape Breton Pride committee member, supports police officers walking in the annual parade in uniform.
There is a new route for the Pride Parade, which starts this year on George St. and finishes at Open Hearth Park.