A decision by a group of protesters to block the path of the Capital Pride parade on June 10 in three separate locations could result in an additional “big expense” to the Capital Pride organization, according to its president, Bernie Delia.
Delia and Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos said the blocking of the parade carried out by the group No Justice No Pride delayed the completion of the parade by at least two hours if not longer.
Under a longstanding D.C. government policy for organizations sponsoring parades or festivals, organizers of those events are required to pay a fee to cover the costs of deploying police officers to oversee the closing of streets and redirecting motor vehicle traffic.
The police department’s Special Operations Division charges event organizers based on the number of officers required for an event and the amount of hours an event lasts, said police spokesperson Rachel Reid.
No Justice No Pride leaders said they conducted the parade blocking protest after Capital Pride officials declined to agree to two key demands by the group – that they prohibit uniformed police officers and certain corporations from marching or riding in floats in the parade.
The group’s spokesperson, Drew Ambrogi, said No Justice No Pride stopped the parade by deploying its members to stand in the path of the parade in front of three targeted contingents – the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit, a float sponsored by the Lockheed Martin defense contracting corporation, and a float sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank.
The group said it wanted uniformed police banned from the parade because they symbolize police abuse and oppression of LGBT people of color, especially transgender women of color.
A contingent of “queer black women of color stepped in front of the police to highlight the threat of abuse and state violence that LGBTQ2S people of color experience,” the group said in a statement.
No Justice No Pride members said Lockheed Martin and Wells Fargo were singled out because they symbolize defense contractors that build weapons of war and a bank that has helped to finance the Dakota Access Pipeline that, among other things, desecrated lands considered sacred to indigenous peoples and is harmful to the environment.
D.C. police, under the direction of Police Chief Peter Newsham, who was on the scene, chose not to arrest the protesters and instead rerouted the parade, which resulted in long delays in parade contingents reaching the end of the parade route at 14th and R Streets, N.W.
A D.C. Metropolitan Police Department statement in response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade said police anticipated the possibility of a disruption of the parade and were prepared to “ensure the safety and security of everyone involved while permitting everyone to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
The statement added, “It is our common practice to provide those exercising their First Amendment rights a safe and secure place to do so. As long as a First Amendment assembly is peaceful, MPD makes every effort to facilitate that expression of rights, while also ensuring the safety and security of the community.”
Delia told the Blade on Tuesday he couldn’t immediately provide a specific amount that Capital Pride would be required to pay the city due to the longer period in which police had to keep surrounding streets closed because of the protests.
“I don’t recall the exact figure,” he said referring to the overall cost of police services for street closings associated with the Capital Pride parade. “It’s a big expense,” he said.
Delia disputed claims by No Justice No Pride members that negotiations between Capital Pride and No Justice No Pride representatives took place at the site where the group blocked the parade for an hour or more. No Justice No Pride representatives said in a statement that Capital Pride refused to agree to any of the group’s demands.
“We engaged in discussions on Saturday night, but no one undertook any negotiations,” Delia said in a statement. “That time and that setting were not conducive to engaging in a meaningful dialogue that properly involves the entire community,” he said.
“The Capital Pride Alliance had repeatedly committed to continue to look at all the issues that have been raised, but we believe now is the time for us to work with other Washington, D.C. groups and broaden the conversation to find a way forward,” he said.
“After a weekend of events where hundreds of thousands of members of the LGBTQ+ community and allied community came together to protest, gather in community, and celebrate, it is time for the full breadth of organizations and LGBTQ+ communities that they serve, protect, and advocate for to collectively look at the challenges and opportunities before us,” Delia said in his statement.