SEATTLE — Seattle’s Pride Parade, the fourth largest in the nation, will return in-person Sunday for the first time in two years.
"Family reunion is our theme, and we have so many people excited to march and attend," said Krystal Marx, the executive director of Seattle Pride.
But one group that has been present for the last 30 years will not be participating this year.
Earlier this month, Seattle Pride organizers said Seattle police officers could participate in the parade, however, they could not be in uniform or wear anything with law enforcement insignias or logos. Now, the Seattle Police Department is saying it will work the parade but its officers will not march.
The decision came after over 1,300 LGBTQIA+ community members responded to a survey saying they didn't want police represented in the parade.
"They're OK if officers marching in the parade don't have the uniform on," Marx said, "but we don't want to see that constant reminder of the brutality that happened."
Marx is referring to historical clashes between police and the LGBTQIA+ community, including the stonewall riots in 1969 which are considered the first major protest for equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Organizers also said the decision stems from several recent deadly police encounters involving Black Americans across the country. The decision doesn't sit well with Victoria Beach, the chair of the African American Advisory Council with SPD.
"Jumping on that bandwagon to carry this further for their own motives,” said Beach. “I want peace and [to] stop the division."
Seattle Pride said they're not trying to hijack any movements but instead, want to support the Black and brown communities within the LGBTQIA+ community. Nevertheless, Beach and SPD officers she's spoken with are frustrated with the organization's decision.
“I know a few officers that have said they are beyond upset. 'Why do we have to show up if we're not wanted there?'" said Beach.
More than 300 uniformed officers will provide public safety and security during the parade. Along with SPD officers, Seattle Pride has hired 80 private security officers as well.
"Hopefully this will be a great step building that trust in our community," Marx said. "Seeing that [they're] willing to give on something, we're willing to give on something."
Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz released a letter responding to Seattle Pride's decision, saying in part, "SPD employees will respectfully decline to march in the parade as they have for nearly three decades."
Diaz said the decision has been met with sadness by more than 100 LGBTQIA+ officers, commanders, and civilians. The letter goes on to say the decision is especially hurtful because other city workers will be allowed to participate in uniforms or insignias that identify their department.
Seattle Pride responded with a statement saying in part that Diaz's letter "highlights a lack of understanding and it blatantly disregards the concerns of our larger community – highlighting why so many Pride organizations here and nationally are restricting uniformed police participation."