Firefighters boycott Pride march in solidarity with banned police officers
Firefighters boycotted a Pride event in Madison, Wisconsin, after organisers banned uniformed police officers from the march.
The Fire Department had released a statement on the matter on August 14, after the OutReach Pride Parade organisers issued a statement saying they rescinded the applications of various local police forces, including the Madison Police Department (MPD).
Organisers asked the officers to attend the parade in an off-duty, unarmed and plain-clothed fashion instead.
The firefighters subsequently withdrew their participation from the march which took place on Sunday, in solidarity with the officers.
“The Madison Fire Department supports all of our community and we really want to be a part of these things,” Madison Fire Chief Steve Davis said quoted in the Wisconsin Public Radio News (WPR) channel.
“But we also don’t want to be part of dividing the community,” he added.
OutReach’s decision followed several complaints made to the organisation by local community members who felt “unsafe” with officers participating in the march armed and in uniform.
The ban was met with criticism by those who saw the ban as penalising LGBT+ police officers and it stirred a debate about the appropriate relationship between the LGBT+ community and law enforcement.
“We hope that our actions will help to create meaningful dialogue between the police […] and the greater LGBT+ community they are serving,” the march organisers wrote in their statement.
In a statement published on the website of the City of Madison, MPD chief Mike Koval expressed his disappointment in the decision of the event organisers, while expressing continuous support for the parade.
“We are disappointed in the recent decision by Outreach to rescind our participation in the Pride parade, but we respect the decision and understand and acknowledge the complex issues at hand,” he wrote.
“Despite the decision, we continue to support the parade and its theme of diversity and inclusion. We wish Outreach and everyone who partakes in the event a happy and safe Pride,” Koval added.
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Police officers participating in the parade as civilians donned t-shirts specifically made for the occasion, displaying a rainbow badge and the writing “Policing with Pride.” A number of officers were also working to police the parade, as per the city’s parade permit.
— Madison Police (@madisonpolice) August 16, 2018
On the day of the parade, which saw thousands of people marching through Madison’s central streets, the University of Wisconsin Police Department (UWPD), which also affected by the ban, posted a tweet in support of the march.
“From the UWPD Pride Team—and the entire UW-Madison Police Department—we hope today’s Pride Parade is safe and enjoyable for all! We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with the LGBTQ+ community,” the post read.