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LA Pride organizers under fire after seeking police permit for Black Lives Matter solidarity protest

Demonstrators in Riverside on June 1.
On June 1, thousands of demonstrators rallied in front of the Riverside Public Library to protest the death of George Floyd.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The organizers behind LA Pride’s solidarity march for black lives are being denounced for organizing the event collaboratively with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Festivities celebrating the 50th year of the city’s Pride parade had been suspended because of the coronavirus. But this week, organizers announced that they were planning a march in solidarity with Black Lives Matter for June 14, starting in Hollywood and ending in West Hollywood.

On behalf of Christopher Street West, the group that organizes Los Angeles’ Pride march, Jeff Consoletti, who runs an event production firm, submitted a special event permit application to the LAPD on Tuesday.

“For the past 50 years, we have demonstrated a strong and unified partnership with law enforcement in the annual organization of PRIDE here in Los Angeles and West Hollywood,” he wrote. “Your support of this peaceful gathering is the key to its success and continues a LA tradition of support, advocacy, and the peaceful right to protest for all.”

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LGBTQ activists took to social media to point out that partnering with police goes against the intent of protests responding to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and others at the hands of police.

Fran Tirado, the former deputy editor of Out magazine, posted a screenshot of Consoletti’s letter on Twitter, urging fellow non-black LGBTQ people to regroup “with black organizers, so we don’t co-opt the movement.”

Indya Moore, who plays Angel Evangelista on the FX television series “Pose,” spoke directly to the organizers of LA Pride, telling them, “This is not it.”

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“White gay men must look to black trans women and queer folk for leadership and direction,” Moore said.

On Friday afternoon, Consoletti posted an apology to Instagram and withdrew his involvement from the event. Consoletti said that Christopher Street West had assured him they had the support of the black LGBTQ community for the protest, “but it has become clear that is not entirely the case.”

“I apologize and now see that these actions demonstrated the type of privileged, passive, and systemic issues that permeate society today,” he said in the post. “Our desire to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement was not carefully thought through. I am appreciative of the education I am receiving on how to be better and can see now that it is not right to take up space or attention from the conversation of racial inequality and the injustice Black people face from law enforcement.”

West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath told WEHOville that Christopher Street West had withdrawn its request to the city for a permit to stage the protest.

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A day earlier, Gerald Garth and Brandon Anthony, members of the solidarity march committee who are both black and gay, tweeted from the LA Pride account that they were listening to the black community.

“Christopher Street West is engaging Black community advocacy groups, Black LGBTQ+ organizations and community leaders to align on our mission and objectives,” they wrote. “We are committed to educating ourselves on how to be an ally in the fight against systemic social injustice and police brutality and to work for justice reform.”

Late Friday, the Christopher Street West board of directors posted an apology message to the LA Pride Instagram account. They said their effort was well-intentioned but that they had realized they didn’t first collaborate with enough black leaders who have been on the front lines of recent protests.

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“As we quickly mobilized this protest, we proceeded to approach the permitting as we would normally do with organizing the annual LA Pride Parade...,” they wrote. “In that haste, we overlooked the direct police involvement that permitting involves. We understand that clearly goes against the demands for systemic police reform.”

Christopher Street West and the American Civil Liberties Union had to challenge the Los Angeles Police Commission in court to get the permit for the city’s first Pride parade in 1970, which itself was a commemoration of the Stonewall uprising a year earlier, where Marsha P. Johnson and other LGBTQ people of color led a fight against police violence and oppression.

Estevan Montemayor, president of Christopher Street West, did not respond to requests for comment for this story. Earlier this week, he told The Times that Johnson’s struggle and courage as a black transgender woman inspired the solidarity march.

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In their apology letter, the board leaders said they recognize that the organization’s relationship with marginalized groups within the LGBTQ community has been problematic and said they would meet with black leaders in the coming days.

“The previously announced solidarity march scheduled for June 14 is currently being reevaluated through these discussions with more updates to be shared shortly,” they wrote. “We pledge that the LGBTQ+ community will continue to speak up and speak out against racism and stand in solidarity with you on the long march to freedom and equality.”


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