Manchester, NH – The organizers of the Queen City Pride Parade criticized law enforcement’s response and accused officers of protesting the queer community after event organizers called police over concerns about a suspicious box truck parked near the parade route.
Manchester Police Department (MPD) Chief Allen Aldenberg said his officers responded to Arms Park on June 18 after parage organizers conducted a security sweep in the hours leading up to the city’s first pride parade and spotted the truck, WMUR reported.
Event organizers contacted the MPD, which responded to the scene with two explosive detection K9s.
Both K9s hit on the same area of the truck, Chief Aldenberg told WMUR.
The chief was on-site during the investigation and contacted New Hampshire State Police explosive experts for assistance.
He noted that his department was in constant contact with the pride parade organizers during the investigation, WMUR reported.
In the end, the truck was not found to contain any explosives.
Police also tracked down the owner of the vehicle, who explained he recently purchased the truck and moved it around the city to various parking locations to avoid having it towed, WMUR reported.
The Queen City Pride Parade was delayed for just 30 minutes while the safety concern was being investigated.
But weeks later, on July 8, Chief Aldenberg was stunned to receive a letter from Queen City Pride Executive Director Kyle Davis criticizing the MPD’s response to the suspicious box truck, WMUR reported.
The same letter was also sent to the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader.
Davis’ letter had seven bulleted complaints, accused the department of causing alarm with their emergency horns and sirens, and suggested the MPD was “protesting” the queer community, WMUR reported.
“You bring the truck to our attention, we take action, and now you want to question the action that I took?” Chief Aldenberg said. “I was bewildered. I was disheartened. I was angry, to be honest with you, that my police department and the men and women of this police department were painted in that light and labeled as fearmongers.”
Davis said the law enforcement presence at the park caused those in attendance to experience high levels of stress and fear, The New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
“Police officers escorted the…truck from the festival grounds by blaring sirens and horns to get people to ‘move out of the way,'” Davis complained in the letter. “Three times I asked officers to stop the sirens; three times I stood in front of the police cars imploring that we are people and we will peacefully escort you out of the festival with compassion for our guests.”
“Upon the police presence exiting the festival grounds, there was a sigh of relief and safety,” he added.
Chief Aldenberg said Davis’ claims about MPD officers protesting the queer community and “fear mongering” were “beyond insulting” and that he “will not stand for” his officers being accosted for doing their jobs, The New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
“This is a baseless claim,” the chief said. “It is a direct character assassination of myself and the men and women of the police department that I lead.”
“If I was to ever speak that way about any organization the mayor would want my job, and rightfully so, but somehow these organizations can do this — and do this publicly — and it’s OK,” he added, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader.
He said accusing his officers of “fear-mongering” is especially “despicable and unforgiveable.”
Chief Aldenberg said he is “all about” doing his part to support the “diverse community” of Manchester.
“But that does not give you a pass to disparage my police department in that manner,” he said. “What did he expect them to do? He raised a concern and they took action…I am unapologetic for the actions of the Manchester Police Department on June 18.”
The chief further noted that if police had responded any differently and the threat had been real, the results could have been catastrophic.
“I can imagine what the narrative would be if they took no action and God forbid the truck blew up,” he told The New Hampshire Union Leader. “I can’t control if people in your community were insulted by the use of police sirens, which were utilized to clear a path for the vehicle to be towed from the park as quickly as possible so that the event could get underway.”
Chief Aldenberg has called on Davis and his organization to publicly apologize to the officers who responded to the park in response to his request for help.
“I am sensitive to the struggles (the LGBTQ) community has experienced and continue to experience but to assert that myself and the dedicated men and women of the Manchester Police Department are or have caused your community further harm is baseless and it is an assertion that you should publicly apologize for,” he said.
The frustrated police chief said the department won’t be wasting any more time worrying about the criticism coming from those who called them for help.
“We’ll move on, and when they have the event next year, we will give the event the same support, if not more — whatever it takes to stay safe,” the chief told WMUR. “I’m not going to take it personally.”
Queen City Pride told the news outlet that it is looking forward to working with the MPD “in a collaborative way” to address the “concerns” raised in Davis’ letter.
“We can learn from one another and will be a stronger city for all its residents and visitors because of it,” the organization declared.