AVP’s Vision for Community Safety at Pride

This year, the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) is excited to launch Cops Out of Pride, our campaign to remove the presence of the NYPD from Pride celebrations in New York City. AVP works to end all forms of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people, including police violence. Forty years ago, AVP was founded because members of our community were being attacked, and when they went to the police, they experienced indifference and more violence. AVP’s founders knew we had to build safety together on our own. Our Cops Out Pride campaign represents a piece of our work to support LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence who seek care outside of policing. We believe that our LGBTQ and HIV-affected community members can work together to build safety, and we know that policing and criminalization do not keep our community safe. We aim to start by advocating that resources be shifted away from the NYPD and towards community-based solutions.

The NYPD has a long history of harassing, arresting, and being violent toward members of the LGBTQ and HIV-affected community. Though anti-LGBTQ violence can and does happen at the individual and interpersonal level, police violence is systemic– perpetuated by an institution that holds power. The police’s violence and targeting have particularly harmed LGBTQ people in Black communities, indigenous communities, and undocumented immigrant communities, especially transgender and gender non-conforming people. During Pride month in 2019 and 2020, AVP’s hotline saw a spike in reports of police violence against LGBTQ people. Reports of police violence in June 2020 represented 24% of police violence incidents for the year. A study recently released by the Williams Institute found that LGBQ people are six times more likely to be stopped by the police in a public place than are non-LGBQ people.

AVP has learned a lot in our forty years of supporting LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors in healing, safety-planning, and building power to prevent violence. In our early years, we pushed for the NYPD to be more involved by responding to and actively prosecuting acts of violence against community members. Additionally, we have been active members of the Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) coalition. However, in all that time, despite our best efforts, the NYPD has persisted as a source of violence and harassment for LGBTQ and HIV-affected people.

In 2019, during the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, then-Police Commissioner, James O’Neil, publicly apologized for the NYPD’s role in the violence on that day in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, stating, “The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize. I vow to the LGBTQ community that this would never happen in NYPD 2019.” However, in June 2020, protesters marching in the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives were attacked by police and pushed, beaten, and pepper-sprayed toward the end of the march in Washington Square Park.

This year, as we kick off our Cops Out of Pride campaign, we are starting to raise awareness of these issues and engaging in difficult conversations within our LGBTQ communities. AVP believes that the police should be removed from Pride so that our community can make new ways forward toward safety. We know LGBTQ and HIV-affected people do not have unified opinions about this issue. We are looking forward to the process of engaging with our community, learning together, and working together so that LGBTQ people do not experience this violence. To this end, we are putting forth our vision for how we can make Pride safe for everyone without a police presence and challenge Heritage of Pride (HOP, the organization that produces NYC Pride), the Mayor, and City Council to work with our community to take the following steps:

  1. Remove NYPD presence at the in-person Pride Parade and remove the NYPD from all digital and print Pride materials and celebrations. The NYPD should not be the city agency tasked with traffic control and permitting for Pride events. Furthermore, NYPD should not be celebrated at Pride. Pride events should not be a recruiting space for the NYPD or other carceral agencies. The city can, and should, move the permit process from the NYPD to a non-police agency like the Department of Transportation. The city should invest in a non-police, unarmed, well-trained, and prepared community safety team based on peer-support models. Substituting private security for the NYPD does not reduce the harms of interactions with law enforcement. Private security firms often hire former or off-duty police officers and are even less accountable to communities than police forces.
  2. Divest from NYPD as first responders. The City should ensure that NYPD are not the first responders at Pride or in the community when there is a mental or physical health emergency. As an organization that is a leading member of the NYC Against Hate coalition and a long-time member of Communities United for Police Reform, we advocate for safety models that are not reliant on law enforcement or incarceration, but rooted in solutions that center community. The Dyke March, Drag March, Folsom Street East, and more have rejected police involvement and have worked with community members as marshals for the entirety of their histories, while the Audre Lorde Project’s Safe Outside the System project creates community safety. These are models that could be scaled up for HOP’s Pride March.
  3. #DefundNYPD and reinvest in resources that create safety. AVP, alongside 200 other organizations that make up Communities United for Police Reform, pushes for police transparency and accountability through community education and legislation. We also specifically call the City to #DefundVICE as a part of this larger goal of police divestment. The City must reinvest that funding in the programs and services that community members consistently tell us they need to be safe, such as health care, housing, education, and workforce development programs that affirm LGBTQ and HIV-affected people’s sexuality and gender identities.
  4. Shift resources, funding, and support to Black and LGBTQ-led community-based organizations and groups that provide alternatives for safety. Black and LGBTQ activists, individuals, community-based organizations, and groups have been providing and maintaining safety for their communities outside of the police for many decades. As hate violence and police violence escalate, exacerbated by the pandemic, these groups are crucial in providing crisis support and resisting state violence, including police violence. These groups need to be funded and supported to sustain their work. HOP committed to distributing 30% of its Pride Gives Back program to trans and nonbinary-owned, Womxn-owned, and BIPOC nonprofits and initiatives for the next 5 five years. We believe that HOP should distribute 70% of its program to these groups instead.

AVP is here to support you in exploring and learning options for your safety by creating a safety plan. If you need help, call our 24/7 English/Spanish hotline at 212-714-1141 or click here. If you are a member of our community and want to engage in conversations with AVP staff and community members about this campaign, you can also email us at community@avp.org.