By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The recent verdict in the Philando Castile case has Twin Cities Pride organizers altering its policy on law enforcement. This year, Pride will forgo police participation to respect the pain the community is feeling right now.

“With the Twin Cities Pride Parade and Festival drawing about 350,000 people each year, we are doing our best to balance the concerns of the community and our concerns for making this family-friendly event a safe and welcoming place for everyone to attend,” the organization announced on its Facebook page.

Twin Cities Pride is required by law to have police lead the parade to make sure the route is clear before it officially starts. But this year, the car will be unmarked.

The move has sparked some controversy over inclusion in Pride events. Pride organizers say its message may have gone astray.

They say the group is all about inclusion, but they also want all who show up for Pride events to feel safe.

So they are back at it, trying to find a compromise that makes everyone feel welcome and safe.

“I think last year the big story was the police at pride because of Orlando. The festival and parade happened just two weeks after Orlando; everybody was kind of on high alert for attacks,” festival director Dot Belstler said.

Beltser says officers came out in numbers to make sure people at last year’s event were safe.

“While many of our guests felt really safe with the extra police on, people of color and transgender folks did not,” Belstler said.

In a statement, the St. Paul Police Department said it will sit out this year’s parade with understanding, compassion and respect, but will still share a booth in Loring Park with Minneapolis police. Both departments say they will continue to recruit during the event to make sure their departments reflect the communities they serve.

“We definitely respect the police. We know there’s many LGTBQ police officers in our family here at pride so it’s really important that we include everybody so we are going to be working on our message,” Belstler said.

Belstler says organizers are talking with police to find a compromise that does not exclude anyone.

“It’s really difficult to find the right balance. I’m sure that not everyone is going to be pleased with us in the end,” Belstler said.

Organizers say they will have an update on how they will deal with this balancing act of having police on site and making people of color and transgender feel comfortable.


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