‘We respect and support those working to amplify the voices of marginalized communities,’ group says.

 

Leaders of LGBTQ groups in Central Ohio have sent the following letter to Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs about police presence at next month’s Columbus Pride parade and festival. 

In it, they ask Jacobs and Columbus Police for “patience and restraint” toward those at the June 16 Pride parade and festival who might protest on behalf of LGBTQ people and people of color.

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“It is our hope that Pride can be a significant way for our community—LGBTQ of all races—to come together in solidarity,” the letter states. 

It is signed by leaders of 13 LGBTQ groups, including Stonewall Columbus Board President Robert Podlogar. It is addressed to Jacobs and copied to Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, City Attorney Zach Klein and Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin. 

The entire letter follows: 

To Kimberley Jacobs, Chief of Police 

Columbus Division of Police 

Subject: Request for Understanding, Patience and Restraint 

As our 2018 Pride parade and festival fast approaches, we want to share our collective feelings and concerns in hopes that we can have a successful event that is inclusive and safe for all. Last year’s protest and subsequent arrest of the Black Pride 4, which garnered national attention, also brought awareness of a schism within the LGBTQ community that we continue to address. 

We are asking to enter into dialogue and partnership with the Columbus Division of Police and other peace officers with the goal of ensuring safety for all persons—those marching in the parade, those watching the parade, those using the venue of the parade to peacefully protest injustice across our nation, and law enforcement. As we state our requests for patience and restraint on the part of Columbus Division of Police and other peace officers, we also acknowledge the value of the service you provide. For some, police presence is reassuring and eases fear; however, for some the opposite is true—particularly for persons of color. 

Indeed, across the nation there has been an increase in violence and intolerance against LGBTQ and persons of color communities. Those most at risk are transgender and gender-nonconforming persons of color. As intolerance—homophobia, racism, transphobia and other forms of oppression—have become more mainstream and seemingly acceptable, we fear the wave of efforts aimed at stripping us of protections and progress we have worked for so hard and so long. 

While many have benefitted from that progress, some in our community have been left behind, marginalized, and alienated. Their world continues to be a daily struggle, and they don’t view Pride as a cause for a celebratory parade, but rather an opportunity to continue the fight against oppression until there is true equality for all. We recognize that peaceful protest has long been a catalyst for change, and we respect and support those working to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. 

It is our hope that Pride can be a significant way for our community—LGBTQ of all races—to come together in solidarity. The parade shows the world we are proud of who we are and are defiant in the face of prejudice. It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come and an opportunity for allies, families, businesses, and our city to join us and show their support. Pride can also be an opportunity to raise awareness that injustice remains and there is still much work to be done. 

The undersigned believe there is value in celebration and in the continued work for equality. We ask that the Columbus Division of Police and other peace officers understand: intention and perception are key. 

Intention: As long as there have been pride marches and parades, there have been protesters who wish to do harm to our communities. They condemn us and seek to destroy us if they can, and we want to drown out their hateful ideology with our collective voices of love and inclusion. However, peaceful protestors from within the LGBTQ community who seek to raise awareness about the systematic oppression of persons of color and transgender and gender-nonconforming communities have a right to have their voices heard, and we respect the right to protest. 

Perception: There are people along the parade route who think their way of life and their faith are somehow threatened by sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression different from their own. Their goal is to silence and shame us at the least, and to physically harm us at the most. We know they are against the LGBTQ community. However, there are those among us whose lives are actually threatened. They want to be treated equally and to live without fear of violence. They are part of the LGBTQ community; they are part of our family and we want them to be safe as they protest to bring attention to—and seek to change—injustice everywhere. 

Therefore, we respectfully ask for dialogue leading to a safe and secure Pride for all. Specifically, we ask that Columbus Division of Police and other peace officers keep intention and perception at the forefront of any response to protests that may arise during Pride. We recognize that the use of mace is a secondary, non-lethal tool; however, we ask for restraint in its use. We also specifically request the use of as many officers as possible who are trained in Crisis Intervention Team tactics. While we ask for patience and restraint on your part, we also understand that violence and aggression on the part of protestors is unacceptable. We recognize that you have a responsibility to keep the public, the participants, the protesters, and law enforcement officers safe from harm, and we recognize this balancing act requires tact and empathy, as well as attention to intention and perception. 

To assist in this regard, we are taking steps to provide a significant presence of trained legal observers and community members who will monitor and report on incidents that might occur. In addition, we are taking steps to ensure that our technical means of communication—with one another and with law enforcement—are enhanced. 

We are hopeful for an incident-free, peaceful Pride celebration this year and are open to further ideas, as well as dialogue to ensure the best outcome for all. 

Thank you for your time and consideration of our concerns. 

Sincerely, 

* Bi Local, Merisa K. Bowers, Esq., Co-Founder and Coordinating Councilmember 

* Black Out & Proud, Inc. (BOP), J. Averi Frost, President, Board of Directors 

* Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO), Debé Turnbull, President, Board of Trustees 

* Diversity Chamber of Central Ohio, Curtis Davis, Founder & President 

* Equality Ohio Education Fund, Sandra J. Anderson, Esq., Board Chair 

* Equitas Health, Sam Rinehart, CFP, CLU, Chair, Board of Trustees 

* Family Pride Network, Joe Matessa, President, Board of Directors 

* Kaleidoscope Youth Center, Kelly Francone, President, Board of Directors 

* Lesbians Benefitting the Arts, Chris Cozad, President of Board 

* PFLAG Columbus, Jaron M. Terry, MS, APR, President, Board of Directors 

* Stonewall Columbus, Robert Podlogar, President, Board of Trustees 

* The Human Rights Campaign, Cheryl Rose, Board of Directors on behalf of Columbus Steering Committee 

* United Way of Central Ohio, Lisa Courtice, PhD, President & CEO 

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.