Statement on the participation of the Metropolitan Police Service in the Pride in London parade
Last summer, in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, Pride in London received hundreds of letters in response to a Twitter campaign highlighting examples of institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and demanding the exclusion of their LGBT+ Network group from the Pride in London parade.
As parade applications, in normal circumstances, do not open until January or February, we took time to seek to understand the perspectives of the wider communities we serve. To exclude any group of LGBT+ people from participating in Pride is a big decision, especially when that group has itself had to struggle against terrible discrimination in their own workplace. We talked to Black and Brown people, grassroots groups and community leaders, NGOs and other event organisers. We asked our Community Advisory Board to do likewise. We also looked at how other Pride events in the UK and around the world had approached similar demands, to learn from them.
In parallel, we engaged directly with the MPS at the highest levels, making clear our position that policing of minority ethnic communities - especially Black communities - as well as LGBT+ communities has and continues to be disproportionate. Whilst MPS leadership has many times asserted its commitment to ‘improving’, the experiences of many Black people in relation to the MPS continues to be traumatising. We should all feel protected by our police services, not threatened by them. We acknowledge the historic and current injustices against Black people and challenged the MPS on that point and the need for clear, decisive action, and more importantly for systemic change.
We put forward a list of changes that we would like to see implemented by the MPS, as evidence of their intent to address the problem of racism, and held a number of meetings to discuss these. This was done at the same time of the publishing of the Mayor of London’s Action Plan which seeks to address community concerns about the disproportionality in the use of certain police powers affecting Black Londoners. As a result of our intervention, Pride in London was invited to advise the MPS on its diversity and inclusion ‘STRIDE’ strategy, an invitation we have accepted solely on the condition that we are able to bring other voices from our communities into the process. We understand that our call for annual, mandatory, diversity and inclusion training will be one of the recommendations from this process.
The results of our discussions with communities were mixed. Many were clear that exclusion would be the best way to show solidarity. Others felt that exclusion of LGBT+ people from Pride did not align with the inclusive nature/values of Pride and also give right wing and racist groups an unwelcome platform, centring on the decision made and ‘Pride’s response’, rather than the lives and lived experiences of, in particular, Black people.
Balancing all of this, the Pride in London Board has taken the decision that the MPS LGBT+ group is, at this point in time, free to apply for the next Parade.
We have concluded that, for now, it is better to work in an inclusive process with the MPS to bring the wider LGBT+ communities together, to raise, discuss, and address concerns and to work towards bringing about the institutional and systemic change that is required to ensure that policing in our great city is equitable.
They, like everyone else making a parade application, will be required to demonstrate that they comply with our Code of Conduct when they apply, and we reserve the right to ask for evidence of this, if we think this appropriate.