Pride in London has voted against a motion to ban the Metropolitan policefrom taking part in the procession at the annual parade following pleas from the commissioner to allow her officers to be able to march.
The force, like every other organisation, is now free to apply to take part in the next parade, which has been scheduled for September.
Board members had been actively considering preventing the Met’s participation in Pride in London following calls to do so at the height of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Pride in London received hundreds of letters in response to a Twitter campaign highlighting examples of perceived institutional racism within the Met and demanding the exclusion of its LGBT+ Network group from the parade. The organisation was called on to do more to speak out against the discrimination faced by ethnic minorities.
Similar demands have been made of other Pride events across the world, with Toronto Pride banning uniformed officers from taking part in the parade in 2019, but Sydney Mardi Gras members voted last December to allow officers to participate.
As last year’s parade was cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Pride in London board decided to undergo months of engagement and outreach with its volunteers to address the issue.
Its community advisory board sought feedback from different groups over a number of weeks and recommended in a report that the police not be allowed to march as a group in the parade. The report noted that while every LGBT person had a right to take part in the parade, not every organisation shared that right.
The community advisory board has previously criticised Pride in London for not being inclusive enough, with Stonewall pulling out of the parade in 2018because of the event’s perceived lack of diversity.
In the run-up to the vote, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, wrote to the board urging it to allow her force to be able to participate in the procession.
In the letter, seen exclusively by the Guardian, Britain’s most senior police officer wrote: “For us, Pride in London is something we have been proud to be at the centre of. It is a celebration of our own LGBTQ+ officers and staff, colleagues and friends, and an important moment in our calendar.
“I understand that much of the discussion you have had with my colleagues has been focused on the Met’s relationship with London’s black communities. As commissioner, I have two key priorities for the MPS: bearing down on violence, and increasing public confidence in the Met, particularly the confidence of black communities. These have been my core areas of focus since the start of my commissionership, and they remain so.”
The Guardian understands Pride in London also held meetings with the Greater London Authority and the mayor’s office on the issue. Officers for the Met were present at these meetings, where the board put forward a list of changes that they wanted to see implemented by the force. Pride in London accepted an invitation to advise the Met on its diversity and inclusion “Stride” strategy on the condition that they are able to bring in voices from other communities into the process.
Pride in London board members took an indicative vote on whether to ban the Met from the parade in December, which was later ratified at the beginning of the year.
A spokesperson for Pride in London said: “The results of our discussions with communities were mixed. Many were clear that exclusion would be the best way to show solidarity. Others felt that exclusion of LGBT+ people from Pride did not align with the inclusive nature and values of Pride and also gives rightwing and racist groups an unwelcome platform, centring on the decision made and ‘Pride’s response’, rather than the lives and lived experiences of, in particular, Black people.
“We have concluded that, for now, it is better to work in an inclusive process with the MPS to bring the wider LGBT+ communities together, to raise, discuss, and address concerns and to work towards bringing about the institutional and systemic change that is required to ensure that policing in our great city is equitable.”
A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “The mayor welcomes Pride in London’s decision to allow the Metropolitan police to apply for the next parade. The mayor is determined to do all he can to tackle all forms of discrimination across London and recently published an action plan designed to improve the trust and confidence of Black communities in the police.
“The mayor believes all LGBTQ+ Londoners should be able to march in Pride and it is right that LGBTQ+ police officers and police staff can participate in the parade – as they do every year.”
Source: (The Guardian)