Organizers of this weekend’s Sacramento Pride Festival have decided to allow uniformed police to participate, opening a rift in the organization and calls for its leaders to resign.

Sacramento LGBT Community Center announced Thursday it has reversed its stance of banning officers in uniform from the two-day event, which begins Saturday at the Capitol Mall. There was concern that the presence of police would make attendees uncomfortable. Uniformed officers were banned from last year’s festival.

“Police officers, many of whom are LGBTQ themselves, will be welcome in uniform at SacPride.” — Sacramento LGBT Community Center announcement 

In a news release, the community center said that, following meetings among center board members and its executive director, along with Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn and LGBTQ members of police department, “police officers, many of whom are LGBTQ themselves, will be welcome in uniform at SacPride, and those who have been or feel disenfranchised by law enforcement will now have a platform upon which to seek improvements.”

Staff Calls for Board Members to Resign

The decision led to a strong response from the center. In a Facebook post, Pixie Pearl, the center’s assistant director of housing, called for the resignation of board president Carlos Marquez and “any board members in agreement with allowing police to march in uniform at SacPride.”

“Trust and safety are crucial in the LGBTQ+ community, yet they have frequently been broken by officers in this region and beyond,” wrote Pearl, who added she was posting on behalf of 21 Community Center staff.

Board president Marquez told Capital Public Radio he understood that people would not agree with their latest decision, including center staff. “But we continue to be committed to moving forward and to addressing legitimate concerns in a collaborative way,” he wrote in a text message.

Sacramento Officer Wanted to Participate

Last week, when the police ban still was in place, one Sacramento officer questioned why he couldn’t participate.

“I take a lot of pride in who I am and being on the police department and representing the Sacramento Police and representing our community,” officer Jeff Kuhlmann told Sacramento TV station KOVR.

As a gay man, Kuhlmann says he has worked hard to dispel rumors and myths among his fellow police officers after his hiring in 2005.

Kuhlman asked why he can’t take participate in an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a turning point in gay rights. In June 1969, police raided Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York’s Greenwich Village. During the mass arrest, confused patrons were rounded up. Many said their rights were violated and the widespread outrage ignited two days of rioting.

(GV Wire contributed to this story.) 

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