Updated 3:49 p.m.
Heading into this weekend’s annual Sacramento Pride festival, a debate over whether to allow uniformed police officers to march in its parade has divided the event's organizers — prompting calls for resignations.
The LGBT Community Center, which is putting on Pride, announced last week it would not allow officers in uniform to participate in the event.
On Thursday, however, the center reversed that decision, saying it had reached an agreement with the Sacramento Police Department to allow uniformed officers to march.
But more than a dozen staff members at the LGBT Community Center disagreed with this move, and now are demanding for the board president’s resignation. Some performers have said they may bow out of the festival, as well.
Both the original announcement, and the reversal, were met with criticism and backlash from different camps.
On Thursday night, LGBT Community Center assistant director of housing Pixie Pearl posted on Facebook on behalf of 21 staff members, calling for the resignation of president’s Carlos Marquez and any members who support the decision to allow officers to march in the parade while in uniform.
They also are calling for the center to stand by its original position.
“News that the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento LGBT Community Center Board of Directors have agreed to allow officers in uniform to march at this weekend’s SacPride has deeply hurt and upset us as staff members, LGBTQ+ members and Sacramentans,” the announcement states.
The group had grown to 23 staff members by Friday. A press release said the center’s board refused to meet the group’s demands. As a result, the staff members plan to attend alternate LGBT events over the weekend in protest of the center’s official Pride events.
Marquez told CapRadio he does not plan to step down as board president, but acknowledges leadership could have done a better job involving staff.
“We should have done and absolutely can do better to try to find ways to engage our staff around key decisions that will ultimately impact the organization,” Marquez said.
David Heitstuman, executive director of the LGBT Community Center, did not respond to a request for comment.
Pride month coincides with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a series of violent raids on an LGBT nightclub in New York City in the late 1960s. The raids are considered a formative moment in the coalescence of LGBT liberation, but also underscore the historically fraught relationship between the community and law enforcement.
In its original decision to not allow uniformed officers, the center cited the “pain and marginalization of community members who have been harmed by police violence.”
The ban on uniformed officers at Sacramento’s pride event garnered national media attention, and sparked a debate over LGBT and police relations. Sacramento Police Department called it disappointing.
“We support our LGBTQ officers who proudly serve our community on a daily basis. They have worked hard to earn these uniforms and are proud to wear them."
The subsequent agreement between the center and police resulted from meeting between the two sides, according to a press statement from the department.
Marquez says the center’s agreement with the department is an important step toward improving relations between police and the LGBT community.
“We appreciate that not everyone will agree with this decision, including members of our valued Center staff,” Marquez wrote in a text, “but we continue to be committed to moving forward and to addressing legitimate concerns in a collaborative way.”
But Pearl told CapRadio that the decision blindsided the center’s staff.
“There was frustration,” Pearl said. “We’re the service providers, and it felt like this was done behind our backs.”
Some who previously committed to participating in Pride are now reconsidering.
Ebony Ava Harper, a transgender rights advocate and one of three grand marshals for Pride, is re-evaluating that role in the event as a result of the agreement.
“If police is showing up and marching in uniform I am stepping down from Grand Marshal,” Harper wrote in a Facebook post.
Some performers are also weighing a decision to boycott Pride due to the Center’s changed stance on police participation.
"We universally, wholly agree that off duty SacPD officers should not wear the uniform of the historical and still current oppression faced by queer and trans [people of color] in America,” wrote Carly DuHain in a message to CapRadio on Thursday night.
DuHain announced Friday afternoon on Facebook that her band would not play the event.
"It is with heartache and unity with our community that we, Drop Dead Red, graciously thank Sacramento Pride for booking us to play this weekend, but we can no longer perform due to the current climate," she wrote.
The Capitol LGBTQ Association announced Friday it would not longer march in the Pride parade due to safety concerns.
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