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Capital Pride reiterates 2018 policy banning D.C. police from parade

Black Pride has no plans to ban officers

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This scene from 2019 Capital Pride parade won’t be repeated as uniformed officers have been banned entirely from participating. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, says it adopted a policy in 2018 to ban uniformed D.C. police officers from marching in the Capital Pride Parade.

Some LGBTQ community members contacted by the Washington Blade, including D.C. Black Pride organizer Earl Fowlkes, have said they were unaware of the Capital Pride policy of not allowing police participation in the parade and other Capital Pride sponsored events.

Fowlkes, who serves as executive director of the D.C.-based Center for Black Equity, which supports Black Pride events throughout the country, said D.C. Black Pride has had police presence at some of its events over the past 30 years and has no plans to ban police from its activities.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, sent the Blade a statement he said Capital Pride posted on its website in June of 2020 formally announcing the police policy. The statement came five days after an earlier statement posted on the group’s website expressing strong solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“In 2018 the decision was made that MPD [D.C. Metropolitan Police Department] would not participate as a contingent in the Pride Parade, and has not since,” says the statement, which was posted on June 8, 2020. “Going forward, CPA will not permit any uniformed and armed police officers to march in the Pride Parade or participate in CPA-sanctioned events,” the statement continues.

“As required by the city government, MPD has jurisdiction to close and clear the streets,” the statement says. “The MPD will continue to manage street closures as outlined in permit requirements. When needed, CPA will hire private security as has been done previously.”

The statement concludes by saying Capital Pride Alliance was committed to having “further talks with its LGBTQ+ partners and other organizations and the city to address the on-going concerns that have been raised by the community.” It adds that Capital Pride Alliance “will take additional actions in the coming days and weeks.”

Although the statement did not say so directly, it was referring to the earlier statement discussing Capital Pride’s support for the nationwide protests in June 2020 over the murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a police officer who was later convicted of second-degree murder and manslaughter for Floyd’s death.

“Pride this year comes on the heels of a global pandemic and a nation confronting the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers,” the earlier statement posted on June 3, 2020, says.

“This horrific tragedy, and the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Abrery by police and white vigilantes, have created a nationwide uprising crying out for racial justice and the protection of Black life,” the statement says.

“As members of the Black and Brown communities have stood with the LGBTQ+ community, the Capital Pride Alliance stands in complete solidarity to unite against those disparities that impact communities of color,” says the statement. “We pledge that we will work together to find solutions and make the positive changes that are so desperately needed to end inequity, injustice, and violence against people of color.”

In prior years, uniformed members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit have marched as a contingent in the Capital Pride Parade. During some prior years going back to the 1990s, D.C. police chiefs have joined the parade in police vehicles or watched the parade while standing along the parade route.

D.C. police spokesperson Dustin Sternbeck did not respond to a request by the Blade for comment on the Capital Pride policy of banning uniformed police participation in Pride events.

Gay retired D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who served as director of the department’s Special Liaison Branch, which oversees the LGBT Liaison Unit, declined to comment on the Capital Pride ban on D.C. police participation.

Some LGBTQ activists have expressed the view that D.C. police participation in Pride events, especially participation by high-level police officials, was a sign of the D.C. police department’s strong support for the LGBTQ community.

But other activists, including members of the local transgender community, have said police crackdowns on sex workers, including transgender female sex workers of color, have involved what they believe to be a misplacement of police priorities. The local transgender and sex worker advocacy group No Justice No Pride has long called on Capital Pride to ban police from participation in all Pride-related events.

In the years since Capital Pride adopted its police policy, other cities, including Seattle, Denver, and just last week New York City’s Pride organization adopted policies banning police participation in their Pride parades and other Pride events.

Bos of Capital Pride said that similar to last year, due to COVID restrictions in place earlier this year, the traditional D.C. Pride Parade and festival will not be held in June this year. Although D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier this month removed all restrictions on large outdoor events beginning June 11, Bos said Capital Pride did not have time to organize a parade and festival for June. He said a Capital Pride Parade and festival are under consideration for October of this year.

The Capital Pride website includes information about a number of smaller Pride events for June, both in-person and virtual events. Among them will be a caravan of cars and vehicles decorated with Pride displays scheduled to travel across the city on June 12 to view houses and businesses that will display Pride decorations on their buildings or in their front yards.

Fowlkes said D.C. Black Pride organizers also fully support the Black Lives Matter movement and have condemned the incidents of police abuse, including the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis. But he said Black Pride organizers see no reason for banning police participation, especially the LGBT police officers who regularly attend Black Pride events.

“We’ve never had a problem,” he said. “Our members have never voiced a problem in dealing with the police,” according to Fowlkes.

“We know a lot of queer police officers and I welcome their presence,” Fowlkes said. “As long as they behave, I welcome everyone’s presence. It’s open to everybody. I can’t see eliminating the police any more than if people come in an Army uniform.”

David Johns, executive director of the D.C.-based LGBTQ group National Black Justice Coalition, has taken a different position than that of Black Pride.

“The D.C. Capital Pride Alliance was right to ban uniformed police from participating in the Pride Parade when it made its decision back in 2018,” Johns told the Blade in a statement. “For too many members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially Black LGBTQ+ and same-gender loving people, the presences of armed, uniform police make us feel less safe,” he said.

“It is important that the D.C. Capital Pride Alliance recognized that the struggle for civil rights for all must uplift all parts of us all of the time – including Black LGBTQ+ people who have too often been sidelined or excluded from the important discussions facing our community,” Johns said.

In yet another indication that the LGBTQ community is divided on the police issue, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, who’s gay and African American, wrote a column published in the Post on Monday expressing strong disagreement with the New York City Pride organization’s decision last week to ban LGBTQ police officers from marching in the New York Pride parade next month.

Capehart wrote that he fully understands the concerns over police abuse in New York and other cities in the past and in recent times. But he said he believes the New York Pride organizers made a “really bad call” in banning the NYPD Gay Officers Action League or GOAL from marching in this year’s parade.

“If you’ve been to a pride parade, you know it’s a celebration of acceptance and inclusion,” said Capehart in his column. “That’s why it’s beyond troubling that a community made up of so many who’ve been rejected by their families because of who they are is now turning on its own members because of what they do for a living,” he states. “This is wrong. This is shortsighted. This is a mistake.”

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Virginia

Student activists picket Loudoun Co. School Board

Members of the Pride Liberation Project call for ‘trans rights now’

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Members of the Pride Liberation Project hold signs supporting trans rights during a Loudoun County School Board meeting on Tuesday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of student activists from the Pride Liberation Project picketed in front of the Loudoun County School Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9 in Ashburn, Va. Members of the group chanted, “trans rights now” in front of the administrative building at the start of the session.

Loudoun County Public Schools student activist Daniel Tanedjaja told the Blade, “I am here in solidarity and support for our trans and gender non-conforming students here. In actuality, a lot of our trans and gender non-conforming kids at Loudoun County Schools don’t know that there is a gender neutral bathroom option and I would like the school to make it more accessible to them.”

Activists were seated during the community input portion of the school board meeting. Some of the protesters held up signs supporting trans rights during anti-LGBTQ public comments at the podium by conservative community activists.

The Pride Liberation Project is a Northern Virginia-based student-led organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights.

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District of Columbia

Gay couple assaulted on D.C. street by attackers shouting ‘monkeypox faggots’

Police list Aug. 7 incident in Shaw as suspected hate crime

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Two persons of interest considered possible suspects in the Sunday, Aug. 7 assault of a gay couple on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W. Police ask anyone who recognizes one or both individuals to contact police at 202-727-9099. (Image courtesy of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department)

Two young men appearing in their late teens shouted the words “monkeypox faggots” at a gay male couple walking along 7th Street, N.W. in the city’s Shaw neighborhood on Sunday, Aug. 7, before punching the two men in the face and head in an incident that D.C. police have called a suspected hate crime.

The gay men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one of the two receiving stitches for a deep cut on his upper lip, according to one of the victims who spoke to the Washington Blade.

The victim, an Alexandria resident who asked that he and his partner, a D.C. resident, not be identified by name, said the attackers were part of a group of four or five young men appearing to be between 17 and 19 years old and two young women accompanying them. He said the group crossed paths with the gay couple around 5:40 p.m. in front of a store on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W., as the couple was walking to a nearby bus stop on Rhode Island Avenue.

The victim who spoke to the Blade said a nearby witness called D.C. police, who arrived within a few minutes as the two attackers and the other young men with them fled the scene. He said although an ambulance arrived on the scene, one of the police officers drove the couple to nearby Howard University Hospital, where they spent about six hours in the emergency room.

The couple had spent part of that 90+ degree day at the city’s Banneker Pool and later stopped at the Kiki gay bar on U Street, N.W. before taking what the victim who spoke to the Blade said was a leisurely walk from Kiki via 7th Street on their way to the bus stop, where they planned to take the bus to his boyfriend’s Northeast D.C. house.

As the couple walked south on 7th Street about a block from their destination on Rhode Island Avenue they crossed paths with the group of teenagers in front of a store that a D.C. police report says was at 1731 7th St., N.W.

“They were about 17 to 19 years old,” the victim who spoke to the Blade said. “And one of them started saying stuff like, hey, look at these monkeypox faggots and some not so nice stuff like that,” he said.

“We turned around to walk away and one of them came up behind me and got my attention and then sucker punched me and then hit me again and then hit my boyfriend in the face,” the victim said. “And another person hit him in the face as well,” he said. “And then someone across the street called the cops. And then the cops came, and they scattered off.”

To the couple’s surprise, the two young women remained on the scene and apologized for the actions by the guys they were with.

“So, I said something like thanks for the apology, but this is the kind of people you hang out with,” the victim recounted. “And one of them said their dad was gay, and they kind of walked away before the cops got there,” he said. “It was nice of them to apologize I guess for the other people.”

The D.C. police report lists the incident as having two offenses, a simple assault against the two men and a misdemeanor destruction of property related to the destruction of a pair of sunglasses worn by one of the two men that were damaged in the assault against him.

The report also lists the incident as a suspected “Sexual orientation – Anti-Gay” hate crime.

As in all incidents of violent crime, D.C. police call on members of the public to contact the police with information about an incident like this to call police at 202-727-9099 or text a tip to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411.

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District of Columbia

Lesbian activist assaulted with barstool at D.C. lounge

Police say victim’s claim of anti-gay hate crime under investigation

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Ward 8 community leader Aiyi’nah Ford says she was attacked in a local bar. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. police say they are actively investigating an Aug. 3 incident in which lesbian activist and Ward 8 community leader Aiyi’nah Ford says she was hit three times in the head with the metal legs of a barstool swung by a man yelling anti-gay names at her.

A police report says the incident took place at the Player’s Lounge, a restaurant and bar at 2737 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E., in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood shortly before and after midnight on Aug. 3 and 4.   

Ford, who witnesses say was covered in blood when she stepped outside the restaurant after other patrons intervened, was taken by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital for treatment of a head and scalp injury that required multiple stitches. 

Ford and an employee at Player’s Lounge said the man who allegedly committed the assault is a regular customer at the restaurant but is known to people only by his nickname of Black. A police spokesperson said that as of Monday no arrest had been made in the case but that it remains under “active investigation” by a detective with the department’s Seventh District in Southeast.

A police report obtained by the Blade lists the incident as an assault with a dangerous weapon, but it does not classify the incident as a hate crime.

“There is no indication at this time that this incident was motivated by hate/bias,” said D.C. police spokesperson Alaina Gertz in response to a question by the Blade about the police report. “Should further interviews with the complainant reveal information that suggests that this should be a hate crime, the report can be amended with the new information,” Gertz said.

“Anyone who has knowledge of this incident should take no action but call police at 202-727-9099 or text your tip to the Department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411,” Gertz said in an email message. “The Metropolitan Police Department currently offers a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for a violent crime committed in the District of Columbia,” she said.

Ford told the Blade she believes she made it clear to the police officers who spoke with her at the scene of the incident that the man who assaulted her called her anti-gay names, including “dyke bitch.” In a video of herself talking about the incident that she posted on Facebook Ford refers to the assault against her as a “gay-bashing.”

The police report says officers arrived on the scene while Ford was being treated by paramedics with the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

“Victim 1 stated that she was talking to a friend of hers at the location when another person who frequents the location interjected himself and began to curse at Victim 1,” the police reports states. “The verbal altercation escalated, and Victim 1 stated Suspect 1 began to assault her with a bar stool,” the police report continues. “Other patrons at the bar broke up the altercation and Suspect 1 fled,” according to the report.

It adds, “Witness 1 corroborated Victim 1’s story and stated that Suspect 1 frequents the area but doesn’t know his name, only his nickname.”

Ford told the Blade the incident began while she and three or four Player’s Lounge customers were engaged in a conversation about local community issues, including the city’s violence interruption program. Ford said that, among other things, she expressed her strongly held opinion that the violence interruption program was not working and was a “joke.”

It was around that time, she said, that the man who assaulted her approached the group and interjected himself into the conversation and indicated that he was interested in possibly becoming one of the violence interrupter program volunteers or participants. Ford said the man, who appeared to be over six feet tall, began referring to women as “bitches” and hurled other curse words.

“So, we’re all going like, what?” Ford said of her and the others’ reaction to the man’s comments. At that point, most of those she was speaking with left the restaurant because it was close to its 11 p.m. closing time.

“And I’m like, who are you talking to?” Ford said she recalls asking the man. According to Ford, he responded by repeatedly reciting the words “dyke bitch” in a hostile way.

“At that point I immediately knew he was talking to me because I’m the only openly lesbian person in that space that frequents there regularly and who was in that room,” Ford told the Blade.

She said she questioned the man’s motives, including whether he could become a violence interrupter, and the two began to argue back and forth until, according to Ford, he walked up to her and stood almost shoulder to shoulder next to her.

“He continues to call me all kinds of homophobic slurs,” Ford said. “He calls me all kinds of bitches and continues to encourage the bar staff to get me to shut up before he shoots me and whatever else he will do to bring my death,” Ford said.

“Before I know it, he has picked up this barstool and hit me in the head,” said Ford. “He takes a second barstool and proceeds to hit me again,” she said, adding that he hit her a third time in the head with one of the barstools, each time with the metal legs of the stool.

Ford said she has learned that the man who assaulted her has told people she spit on him, which he considered to be an assault by her against him. Ford called that allegation a lie, saying she absolutely did not spit on the man.

When the Blade contacted Player’s Lounge for comment, a man who answered the phone arranged for Teresa “Auntie” Smith, one of the longtime employees who was present at the time of the incident, to speak with the Blade. Smith said while she was getting ready to close the restaurant she saw and heard what sounded like a heated argument between Ford and the man known as Black, but she said she was busy doing something in another part of the room and did not see the assault take place.

But she said both Ford and Black, whom she has known for a long time from their role as regular customers, were each saying “very mean things” that she had not heard either of them say before. Among other things, she said she heard Ford say to Black that he engaged in “oral sex with other men.”

When asked about Smith’s claim that she raised the issue of oral sex with Black, Ford said, “Yes, after he called me a dyke bitch I most certainly did.” Ford added, “It sounds like she’s saying that I deserved to be hit with a barstool. Nothing a woman says to a man that is yelling and encroaching on her personal space justifies hitting her in the head three times with a weapon,” Ford said.

“We at Players had a very sad incident on Wednesday night,” the restaurant said in an Aug. 5 post on its Facebook page about the assault case. “We are mostly family here and we look out for each other. We are so sorry for what happened and hope she will be ok,” the message says. “We are still trying to sort out the details of what happened, but we know that no one here would support gay bashing or any type of violence.”

Phil Pannell, a longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights and Ward 8 community activist, said he has organized LGBTQ community events at Player’s Lounge, saying it has the reputation of being an LGBTQ-friendly establishment for many years. He told the Blade that he was surprised upon learning of the assault against Ford because he was unaware of that type of incident ever having occurred at Player’s Lounge.

Ford, among other things, serves as executive director of the Future Foundation, a Ward 8-based community organization that provides services to local teenagers and their families. The organization’s website says one of its programs, called LGBTQ+ You, has provided a “safe space” drop-in facility for LGBTQ youth living in the city’s east of the Anacostia River neighborhoods.

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