DENVER — The Center on Colfax confirmed Tuesday police will not be allowed to participate in the 2021 Denver PrideFest parade or as exhibitors.
The Center, who hosts PrideFest, released the following statement regarding their decision:
“The Center was founded 45 years ago in response to police violence and harassment of the LGBTQ community. The entire history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement is rooted in a history of opposing police harassment and violence aimed at our community. There are numerous examples of police violence going back beyond the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969. For all these decades, The Center has worked to address these issues and improve the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the police and we have made great strides. However we cannot in good conscience, as an organization that speaks up for justice, look the other way when it comes to police violence aimed at the Black community—a history of violence that goes back even further in American history. While we value our relationships with law enforcement and want to continue to build a safer community for all Coloradans, we feel we must take a stand. We have decided to not allow police participation in the 2021 virtual pride parade or to allow law enforcement agencies to participate as exhibitors. We hope to facilitate future conversations about how we can reform policing in our community that will involve all members of our community and support new and just ways of keeping our communities safe.”
The Denver Police Department (DPD) has a history of supporting the LGBTQ community. In 2017 DPD launched the Proud in Denver campaign, partnering with businesses to provide safe places for the LGBTQ community.
Denver police officers have also historically marched in previous parades.
After moving to a virtual celebration in 2020 due to the pandemic, Denver PrideFest announced last month that 2021 would be a hybrid event with both virtual and in-person activities.
This year’s PrideFest will take place June 26-27 and include an in-person and virtual 5K race, a virtual parade presented by Denver7, a virtual marketplace and in-person “Pride hubs” across the city where people will be able to celebrate together.
An official with The Center told Denver7 on Wednesday that organizers will follow city permit guidelines, meaning DPD will provide security with the exception of one hub at The Center's location itself. The Center hired private security for the 5K, the official said.
A spokesperson for the Denver Police Department said in a statement Wednesday that it respects The Center's decision.
“The Denver Police Department considers the LGBTQ community valued partners in safety. We respect The Center’s decision to have law enforcement sit out this Pride Fest and look forward to building upon our relationships with The Center and LGBTQ community moving forward.”
The Aurora Police Department (APD) started marching in the parade in 2013, and the community response was "overwhelmingly positive," according to Chief Vanessa Wilson. She says participating in the parade helped showcase APD's support for their LGBTQ+ employees, spouses, partners, families, allies and the community. Wilson provided the following statement:
"I am both disheartened and disappointed by the decision from The Center on Colfax to exclude the APD from participating in this year’s Pride Fest. We know reforms need to happen and we are committed to doing the work to make those changes happen and to evolve as an agency. However, how can we accomplish that when we are excluded from opportunities where we can have positive interactions and conversations with community members who have lost their faith and trust in the police?
I understand people’s anger, I understand some people just don’t like the police. We are more than the uniform we wear we are a part of this community. I look back at the Stonewall riots where the LGBTQ community stood up to the police for the treatment they were receiving at the time. How powerful it is now to see an officer march in a pride parade holding the hand of their partner, spouse, and significant other saying that was then, this is now. We are here to protect you.”
The Aurora Pride organizers held an emergency meeting to determine if police will be allowed at their parade. Organizers determined no one would be excluded from participating in their Pride events. They provided the following statement:
Aurora Pride believes in supporting all organizations doing great work within our communities, and we also believe that support fundamentally happens when we are inclusive and not exclusive—by bringing people together and not pushing them apart.
We understand and support POC members of our community advocating for police reform, and that experiences of harm from police violence have led them to advocate for police not being at Pride. We are committed to working for accountability so that Black and Brown members of the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ police can build a more equitable community together. We look forward to further dialog to make that possibility a reality.
In the spirit of being in community together, Aurora Pride will not exclude any person or organization from any of its LGBTQ+ events.
We have and will continue to work closely with local officials to ensure that every single person can celebrate Aurora Pride safely.