San Jose, CA – Uniformed law enforcement officers are not welcome to attend this year’s Silicon Valley Pride parade for the first time in the history of the festivities.
Uniformed San Jose police officers have traditionally marched in the parade for years as a show of solidarity, KNTV reported.
They raise a pride flag outside police headquarters in honor of the celebration, and many officers wear pride patches and are heavily involved in the weekend’s events, according to KPIX.
But this year, they were told they won’t be allowed to participate if they are in uniform, KNTV reported.
“This was a decision that was not made lightly by our board of directors,” Silicon Valley Pride CEO Nicole Altamirano told the news outlet. “We had heard from some of our community members that they wouldn’t feel safe with an excessive amount of police presence.”
Silicon Valley Pride Chief Marketing Officer Saldy Suriben said the organization met with San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata to advise him of the board’s decision, KPIX.
Suriben also released a statement noting officers are welcome “to walk in our parade in civilian clothes,” but did not respond to questions regarding the reason for the decision, KPIX reported.
Uniformed officers who are conducting traffic and crowd control will still be allowed in the area, according to KNTV.
San Jose Police Officers Association (SJPOA) President Sean Pritchard was outraged over Silicon Valley Pride’s exclusion of uniformed law enforcement officers from the pride events, saying “there is no justification” for their decision.
“[For] the Silicon Valley Pride leadership to bar uniformed officers from participating in the parade is the height of hypocrisy, really. I mean, those that made this short-sighted decision should be ashamed of themselves,” Pritchard told KPIX. “One of the words that always comes to mind and that I’ve heard a lot is inclusion, and our department, our officers, that are a part of the LGBTQ community, they’ve worked very hard at building relationships.”
“When this decision was made to exclude our very own LGBTQ officers who are part of that community, it’s just extremely frustrating and just really, truly disappointing,” he said.
One anonymous LGBTQ San Jose officer said it feels as if the community has turned its back on gay law enforcement officers, KNTV reported.
“It does a disservice to the officers of the department to show that we are able to be ourselves, our true authentic selves, when we thought a community that would never turn us away, is turning us away,” the frustrated officer said.
Chief Mata said he hopes uniformed officers will be allowed to participate in pride events next year, KNTV reported.