Click each question below to learn more about AVP’s vision for community safety at Pride.
1. What is AVP’s Cops Out of Pride campaign?
AVP’s Cops out of Pride campaign aims to promote safety and wellbeing for all LGBTQ people at the Pride March in Manhattan, outside of policing and criminalization.
AVP serves and supports LGBTQ survivors, which include working class and poor LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of color who are disproportionately criminalized, arrested, and/or detained. These survivors deserve to safely participate in and celebrate at New York City’s LGBTQ Pride March, without fear of escalated interaction or violence from police.
Pride started at the Stonewall Riots in 1969, as an act of resistance to police harassment and violence faced by LGBQ, trans and gender non-conforming people. For these same members of our community, particularly for Black, Latinx, and immigrant LGBTQ New Yorkers, police harassment and violence continues, with sharp increases during Pride month. AVP believes that by not addressing this cycle of systemic violence and by including law enforcement in Pride, we are whitewashing our collective histories.
We are calling on elected officials to commit to the following:
- Remove NYPD presence at the in-person Pride Parade.
- Transition permitting and traffic enforcement from NYPD to the Department of Transportation.
- Build new structures and systems to address safety in the city.
- Shift resources, funding, and support to Black and LGBTQIA+-led community-based organizations and groups that provide alternatives for safety.
You can read our vision for community-based safety here.
2. Why is AVP demanding Cops Out of Pride?
Pride should be a space where everyone in our community can feel free to be themselves and be safe. The increased police presence not only makes many in our community feel unsafe, it often results in the escalation of violence. Each Pride season, AVP receives reports from community members who have been harassed, threatened, and assaulted by police at Pride-related activities across the city.
LGBTQ people, especially people of color, are subject to higher rates of harassment and violence through interactions with police—the very same conditions faced by the founders of AVP over 40 years ago. For LGBTQ people with uncertain immigration status, who work in criminalized underground economies, and/or who have prior records, interactions with police could lead to dire consequences and increased harm for them, resulting in deportation, detention, or other violence.
NYPD violence against LGBTQ people at Pride protests in 2020 and in front of the Stonewall Inn in 2021 is reminiscent of the harassment that led to the Stonewall Rebellion, the founding event of the Pride March. It is clear evidence that not enough has changed since then. The Williams Institute reports that police are six times more likely to stop LGBQ people than the general public. For many in the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, police remain an active and daily danger to their safety. Last June, the NYPD used excessive force, including batons and pepper spray against LGBTQ people during the Queer Liberation March in Washington Square Park.
Cops Out of Pride connects to our daily work to reduce violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities. As an active member of the Communities United for Police Reform, we aim to reduce police resources, power, and opportunity to inflict violence on LGBTQ New Yorkers. We advocate for the increase of resources for community support, housing, and aid.
3. Cops Out of Pride seems like an extreme demand. Can’t we just train or reform the NYPD?
As an anti-violence agency, our goal is to keep the members of our community safe. AVP has been organizing for police reform since our start 40 years ago. We’ve seen our Black and Latinx LGBTQ community members experience violence when interacting with police. In our four decades of existence, we have not seen any evidence that law enforcement prioritizes the safety and protection of LGTBQ people.
Our current focus on community safety, which has always been at the core of AVP’s work, coincides with a broader conversation that began in 2020 after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade.
Sustained protection of our community will require an investment in systems that promote safety and prevent or de-escalate violence without policing. Instead, social services and other agencies with specific training and expertise can serve as first responders. For example, the City should ensure that the NYPD is not the first responder in the community—during Pride and in general—when someone is in crisis or there is a mental or physical health emergency.
Police do not receive adequate training in crisis de-escalation, often resulting in harm to the person in need. We advocate for safety models that are not reliant on law enforcement or incarceration, but rooted in solutions that center community.
LGBQ activists founded AVP as a volunteer-run response to homophobic violence in Chelsea. One of the early goals of AVP was for police and prosecutors to pay attention to this violence. Yet amidst this call, police continued to harass and harm Black, Latinx, and immigrant LGBTQ people. NYPD polices LGBTQ people and youth under the guise of sex work, public sex, drug use, mental illness, homelessness, and crackdowns on LGBTQ bars.
LGBTQ survivors of color continue to have harmful experiences when dealing with the police. One in four LGBQ people say they are unlikely to call the police in the future, and most survivors do not call the police. Thus, we’ve shifted to push for reforms and policies that will keep all LGBTQ people safe. This includes policies for more accessible and equitable housing, resources, direct services, and less police interactions.
4. Not all cops are bad! Why are you spreading hate and division?
We are not calling for members of law enforcement to be “banned” from marching in Pride in an off-duty, personal capacity. LGBTQ people from many sectors participate in Pride. This is not about individual cops being bad. Our goal is to advocate for systemic and structural change to build safety.
AVP joins other organizations and activists who have been highlighting the violent history of NYPD and policing. The origins of policing are connected to some of the most horrific violence of our nation. Policing in the United States began with white slave patrols that would capture runaway slaves seeking freedom. From the beginning and throughout history, police have protected the interests of the white and wealthy by controlling, harming, and killing poor Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and immigrant people of color. The Cops Out of Pride campaign is about how policing has long harmed and continues to harm those most marginalized in the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities of color.
Framing this campaign as divisive misremembers LGBTQ people’s struggle against the police. This is most notably demonstrated in the Stonewall Rebellion, which is the event Pride March commemorates. Black and Latinx trans and gender-nonconforming people at Stonewall led a rebellion against routine police violence by the LGBTQ community. This violence, unfortunately, continues to this day.
What is hateful and divisive is violence perpetrated by the police against our communities. This campaign aims to promote real safety for all LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of color.
Only structural change can end the long history of police violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people. That won’t happen unless we push to remove police from our communities and build alternative forms of safety and care.
5. Isn’t it discrimination to ban cops from marching in Pride?
Discrimination implies unequal and harmful power dynamics and positions used to keep power, resources, and safety inaccessible to people with marginalized identities. A career choice associated with power is not comparable to a marginalized identity related to someone’s race, nationality, immigration status, class, pregnancy, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. AVP encourages LGBTQ police officers to challenge the discriminatory and violent practices of the NYPD, even if they personally have felt welcomed and supported by the police department. As an organization, we are focused on shifting the systemic issues that lead to and uphold police violence against our community, and we believe that the focus on LGBTQ police officers participation in Pride detracts from this important work.
What is discriminatory is the fear and violence many criminalized LGBTQ people of color experience in interacting with the police. Having uniformed or on-duty plainclothes officers in attendance puts many undocumented and criminalized LGBTQ people at risk of police interaction. It also may make it less likely that marginalized LGBTQ people participate in Pride March. As the Pride March is dedicated to the rights, dignity, and resistance of LGBTQ people in the face of discrimination and violence, New York City Pride must prioritize the needs of marginalized LGBTQ people of color.
6. What about LGBTQ cops? Why ban GOAL officers? Aren’t they “on our side?”
AVP’s Cops Out of Pride campaign is focused on removing NYPD presence at the Pride March, ending the organized law enforcement contingents at the March, and de-platforming law enforcement to protect the most at-risk members of our collective community.
LGBTQ officers cannot reform the NYPD from the inside. These officers are operating within a system that was created to protect white property owners, and control, harass, maim, and kill Black and brown people. All police uphold laws that criminalize many in our society, including LGBTQ people, because of that is the function of the police. Many of the issues AVP’s founders had with the police, including police harassment and violence as well as police neglect persist today, 40 years later, despite more LGBTQ police.
7. Cops out of Pride is unrealistic and impossible. Why are you wasting your time and resources?
We disagree! We believe our community knows what it needs, and can work together to identify new ways of building safety together. It’s already happening. There are many LGBTQ police-free marches that have occurred in and outside of New York City. We see Cops Out of Pride as part of a larger, global vision to begin building community systems of safety.
City resources for police overtime for large-scale events such as Pride are estimated at $1M. If NYPD were to allocate a percentage of its $6-$11B annual budget to city agencies and community organizations that provide critical services, we can reduce the exposure to harm for many within our community.
Setting a vision for the kind of future we want helps us move toward its actualization. For decades of recorded LGBTQ history and resistance, marginalized LGBTQ people have had violent and harmful interactions with the police. LGBTQ people face higher rates of arrests, harassment, and violence by the police. We present our vision as a goal for communal safety that we build towards collectively.
8. How can Pride be safe without the NYPD?
AVP believes that we, as a community, can keep each other safe by being prepared for different circumstances and situations that might occur. With more funding diverted from policing to organizations, community members can be trained to intervene in escalating situations, conflicts, or incidents with the potential to turn violent. This includes increased trainings on de-escalation and bystander/upstander intervention. Community organizations could share videos and people offering Marchers tips on staying safe, like AVP’s tips on how to stay safe at marches and protests.
There are already many peaceful LGBTQ marches that occur in and outside of New York City without the presence of law enforcement. Pride events should be no different. We believe preventing direct NYPD participation in Pride celebrations and replacing them with non-police safety programs will offer better protection to the LGBTQ community, especially those who are most subject to harassment and violence by the police–trans, nonbinary, and queer people of color.
We have alternative solutions for community safety during Pride celebrations. The steps we are recommending that can help keep the community safe during Pride include collaborations between city government, community groups and Pride organizers such as:
- Creating plans for emergencies that do not rely on law enforcement for medical emergencies, street harassment, and dealing with different forms of conflict.
- Recruiting and preparing trained support professionals and street medics to be on standby and offer support to March goers.
- Planning and providing preventative supports that allow people to hold capacity (in crowded settings) and feel secure and calm in their settings. For example, food, water, rest stops, accessible bathrooms and other important needs that, if not fulfilled, could lead to escalated tensions and conflicts.
- The City should invest in a non-police, unarmed, well-trained and prepared community safety team based on peer-support models.
- The City should remove traffic control and permitting from the NYPD during Pride. The permit process can be transitioned to a non-police agency, such as the Department of Transportation.
- While there have been recommendations to substitute private security for the NYPD, we do not believe that will 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.
The City of New York and Heritage of Pride (HOP) should expand and shift resources to LGBTQ-led and Black-led organizations, activists, and groups, who have been and continue to provide safety without policing for their communities. These organizations often have the benefit of lived experiences and trust, allowing them to create a safe space during a potential conflict. Together, the City, HOP, and community organizations can:
- Collaborate to create comprehensive plans for different types of emergencies and identification of the entities best prepared to be involved in a non-police response, e.g., medical emergencies, street harassment, and dealing with different forms of conflict;
- Recruit and prepare trained support professionals and street medics to be on standby and offer support to March goers;
- Plan and provide preventative supports that allow people to feel secure and calm in their settings, e.g. food, water, rest stops, accessible bathrooms, and other important needs that, if not fulfilled, could lead to escalated tensions and conflicts.
9. If there are no cops at Pride, what if an emergency situation happens?
The removal of police from the Pride March does not stop anyone at the March from calling 911 if they are in an emergency situation. However, our goal is to work with the City, community organizations, and community members to create as much safety and care for community members outside of policing.
This includes training community members on bystander intervention and de-escalation, planning for different kinds of medical and other forms of emergencies, preventative support for people’s bodily needs, and expanding and shifting resources to LGBTQ and Black-led organizations that have deep roots and relationships in these communities. More ideas for promoting safety at Pride outside of policing can be found here.
10. How can I stay safe during Pride?
Here are some tips for staying safe during the Pride March:
- Read AVP’s tips on how to stay safe at marches and protests.
- Consider your own accessibility needs and check if there are accommodations at the March. (Reach out to organizers if this information is not readily available.)
- Attend with people who you trust and can support your needs. Let loved ones know that you are attending the March and see if they can assist you with calling ride-share, or supporting you in any other way.
- Heat or dehydration can become a health issue. Bring plenty of water and snacks (protein bars are good for quick energy and don’t melt). Wear comfortable light-weight clothing that allows for layering.
- Bring medication that has been prescribed for you that maintains your health. If you can, bring a one or two-day supply of medication.
- Know the general route and possible exits if you need to leave the March unexpectedly. Also know the frequency of your bodily needs and what restrooms might be available on the route for public use. Note: Starbucks generally allows customers to use their restrooms, and some large shopping centers, subways and/or transit stations have public restrooms.
- Consider how interaction with law enforcement might affect you directly, especially if you have previous issues with the criminal legal system or unsecure immigration or documentation status. Write the number for the National Lawyers Guild on your arm and read relevant Know Your Rights material to understand your legal rights when dealing with police.
- Attend a marshals training if you want to play a more direct role in promoting safety at Pride.
11. I still don’t get it. Why Cops Out of Pride? What about LGBTQ+ people who have and do call the police for help?
As a survivor-centered organization, we support LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors in what they believe they need to heal and seek justice. Sometimes to a survivor, this might mean calling the NYPD. We do not invalidate our clients who feel that in specific incidents the NYPD was helpful to them.
In our current system, the NYPD and criminal legal systems are the main options presented to survivors. Policing is often the only avenue through which survivors can get access to other funding or resources. These options serve a select few at the expense of others while failing to address the root causes of violence.
The majority of survivors do not call the police. When they do, survivors have harmful and triggering experiences, according to Interrupting Criminalization. The police themselves are perpetrators of violence against many communities and survivors, including LGBTQ+ survivors of color.
Our Cops Out Pride campaign represents a component of our work to fight for support for all LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence outside of policing.
Our Cops Out Pride campaign represents a piece of our work to fight for support for all LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence outside of policing. We start by shifting resources away from the NYPD and towards community-based solutions
12. What are some examples where LGBTQ people were harmed by police violence?
There is a long history of anti-LGBTQ violence from the police. The resistance by LGBTQ people that led to the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969 was not exceptional. It represents a point in a long timeline of routine but horrific police violence against LGBTQ people of color. This violence was occurring long before Stonewall and continues to this day.
At AVP, we receive frequent reports of police harassment and violence toward LGBTQ people on our anti-violence hotline. During Pride 2019 and 2020, we saw a spike in reports of police violence against LGBTQ people. In June 2020 alone, those reports represented 24% of the total recorded for the entire year. Police violence against LGBTQ people is at its highest in Pride Month.
Here are a few of the most publicized recent examples of police violence waged against LGBTQ New Yorkers:
- April 2021: The NYPD violently rushed, roughed up, and arrested protesters at a weekly peaceful Stonewall march in Brooklyn.
- November 2020: The NYPD harassed, roughed up, and arrested protesters in multiple days of protests at Stonewall March.
- June 2020: The NYPD responded to protesters with escalation and violence at the Queer Liberation March organized by Reclaim Pride.
- June 2019: Correctional officers taunted and denied medical care to Layleen Polanco, a trans Afro-Latinx woman, while she was in solitary confinement at Rikers, leading to her death.
- April 2019: The NYPD responded to protesters with escalation and violence at the Queer Liberation March organized by Reclaim Pride.
These tragedies remind us that LGBTQ people of color will not be safe until we push for resources to shift away from the police, and into housing, human services and aid. These are the resources that make LGBTQ and HIV-affected New Yorkers truly safe.
13. Why does AVP care about this? How will these efforts to remove cops from Pride impact AVP's overall mission and programming?
AVP’s core services and programs go hand-in-hand with the Cops Out of Pride campaign and long-term safety planning for our community. For the tens of thousands of people that we serve annually, AVP remains a relevant, responsive, culturally inclusive, and affirming advocate for LGBTQ survivors through its distinct approach, which is anti-oppressive, survivor-centered, and trauma-informed, and breaks cycles of violence from the individual to the systemic level.
- This is done through services such as:
- A hotline with 24-hour crisis intervention and lifesaving client services; education on violence prevention and response; support groups; economic empowerment programs; and working with incarcerated survivors.
- Free civil legal services for those most impacted by violence around issues including immigration, housing, public benefits, orders of protection, asylum, and other legal support.
- Building power within the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities through organizing and advocacy, community-driven policy, and supporting emerging leaders.
- Raising visibility and awareness of violence within and against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, especially those who are most at risk and marginalized, by collecting data and reporting on violence to build public awareness and influence local and national policy platforms.
Advocating for Cops Out of Pride is a way in which we build towards safety for all members of the LGBTQ and survivor community, especially those whose identities have been historically oppressed and marginalized by the police and state violence.