Pride London Festival is welcoming back the London Police Service to its annual Pride celebration for the first time since 2017.
In April 2018, Pride London announced uniformed officers and police cruisers would not be allowed to participate in the Pride Parade in order to make members of the Indigenous community and people of colour feel more at ease.
In a statement released Monday, Pride London said it is welcoming police to participate in this year’s virtual celebration “as requested by both our membership and some of our most engaged community members.”
“While we know there is still work to be done, we are very pleased that Pride London has welcomed the London Police Service,” read a statement from London police.
“This is a positive step for both our organizations, and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnership in the months and years to come.”
The president of Pride London, Stephen D’Amelio, says a survey was made available for its members and the larger community to get their input on whether police should be welcomed back.
“We went ahead and just asked, ‘do you believe police should be in the virtual festival? Do you believe they should be wearing uniforms?’”
D’Amelio says the survey saw a divide in opinions.
“We heard from people who felt police should not be involved, indicating for example, Pride started in a protest against police brutality. And then there were others who felt that (London police)’s progress has been welcomed.”
Pride London and London police have had disagreements in the past.
In July 2020, Pride London requested London police to refrain from raising the Pride flag in a move meant to demonstrate solidarity with Black Lives Matter London.
Pride London said the decision was made in response to BLM London asking that organizations rethink their relationship with the police.
But three days later, London police announced the Pride flag would be raised at police headquarters.
“(We) believe we owe it to our employees and the community to show our unwavering commitment to the LGBT2Q+, even as we acknowledge the work that needs to be done,” Chief Steve Williams said at the time.
Later that month, BLM London cancelled a joint event with Pride London in response to the events that had occurred and reiterated its demand that “that all city-affiliated groups and all nonprofits serving BIPOC people in the City of London stop working with police for Black history month events and other community events.”
In reaction to Monday’s announcement, BLM London’s lead activist Alexandra Kane said, “our position hasn’t changed from a year ago.”
This year, Pride London will assist London police in flying the diversity flag on Tuesday to mark the start of Pride Month.
“This is a small step but an important one and marks a turning point for both organizations,” the release from Pride London read.
The flag will be flown at half mast until June 9 out of respect and recognition of the tragic discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.
–With files from 980 CFPL’s Andrew Graham and Jacquelyn LeBel