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No uniformed police in this year's Seattle Pride parade

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You won't see any uniformed police officers participating in Sunday's Pride Parade in downtown Seattle.

Event organizers are gearing up for the parade's return since the pandemic hit. There will be a change, however. They say that officers can march in the parade, but they can't wear any insignia or other items that indicate they're with law enforcement.

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The group said it based its decision on the results of a survey conducted after the 2020 racial justice protests. That survey indicated a majority of respondents said they'd prefer if participating officers were out of uniform and also noted ongoing concerns over police historically victimizing their community.

Seattle Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz acknowledged those concerns in a public letter to Seattle Pride, but he also called the decision hurtful. He said their visible presence shows the department is diverse and welcoming to all. The letter from SPD featured statements from a range of LGBTQ+ officers, some who said exclusion makes them feel like parade organizers are attempting to put them “back in the closet” or “other us.”

Chief Diaz also said that more than 100 LGBTQ+ members in his department will respectfully decline to march in the parade this year, as they have for nearly three decades. SPD's full letter can be found here.

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Uniformed officers will still staff the event and provide security for Sunday's parade, "for a hate-free experience for all gathered," according to the letter from SPD. They will be on high alert given the recent incident in neighboring Idaho where 31 members of a far right group were arrested and accused of conspiring to riot at a pride event.

It didn't take long for Seattle Pride to respond. It posted a letter in response to SPD's on the same day.

"As we explained in our communication with Seattle Police Department, our decision is based on the very real lived experience of our community, and informed by a May 2021 community survey in which more than 1,300 community members – who are the focus of this celebration – asked that police not be allowed to march. Given the long history of tension between our community and law enforcement, the letter we received from SPD highlights a lack of understanding ​and blatantly disregards the concerns of our larger community​ – and highlights why so many Pride organizations here and nationally are ​restricting uniformed police participation."

Seattle Pride further argued that by responding publicly, SPD has placed parade participants in danger from "those who share ideologies with hate groups, and is inviting a repeat of targeted threats and violence against ​our​ community..."

Seattle Pride also notes that it contracts with private security and continues to work with SPD for added security around the event.

More updates on KUOW's Today So Far Blog

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