Pride weekend culminates with parade, festival and protests against police presence

Sacramento’s weekend of Pride festivities culminated Sunday with an hour-long parade through midtown in the morning followed by a festival spanning four blocks at Capitol Mall, where protesters reminded people of the event’s origins as a New York City riot.

Parade participants dressed in rainbow gear and sparkles, swung LGBTQ and transgender flags and waved excitedly as they marched through the streets. Onlookers, many of them also in vibrant outfits, cheered as various groups walked by.

Daisy Jacob, 46, and her wife of eight years, Cynthia Jacob, 58, came from Woodland to watch the parade. They wore coordinated t-shirts that formed a complete rainbow when they stood together and said “my other half” with an arrow pointing toward one another.

The couple has three daughters, one of whom is bisexual, Daisy said. They attended the parade, in part, to support her.

Daisy also explained why Pride is important to them and others in the LGBTQ community.

“A lot of people say why do we have to do gay Pride?” she said. “Other people don’t have to fight for human rights.”

At the festival, food trucks and different booths, including one where attendees could write a letter to an LGBTQ child in Africa, lined the edges of Capitol Avenue from 3rd to 7th streets. Performers sang and rapped on stages, leading up to hip hop artist Lizzo’s performance later in the afternoon.

David Lee, 30, who lives in Sacramento, said he attended the festival to celebrate his bisexuality — which he’s known about since he was 18.

“In our community, we don’t get to celebrate often,” he said. “So that Sacramento has its own Pride is a beautiful thing.”

The festivities didn’t go off without conflict, though. About 100 members of the #StillHere Alliance for Trans Rights protested the festival by setting up a human barricade to block several of the entrances, including the main one on Capitol Avenue and 7th Street, leading to verbal and physical altercations.

They opposed a decision by Pride organizers to allow police in uniform to participate in the event, citing a history of conflict dating back to the first Pride event, widely known as the Stonewall riots, which was a protest of a police raid on a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1969.

One of the #StillHere Alliance protest organizers, Breanna Martin, 23, said uniformed police should have been barred from the Sacramento parade because they “hurt black and brown people.”

Initially, uniformed police officers were asked not to participate in Sunday’s parade “to honor the pain and marginalization of community members who have been harmed by police violence,” the Sacramento LGBT Community Center said in a Facebook post.

But after promising to create an LGBTQ liaison and a standing LGBT Community Advisory Committee, police were given permission to participate in their uniforms.

Ebony Harper, an activist for transgender rights and a grand marshal in the Pride parade, said Pride has never focused on supporting black trans women.

“They’d rather center the police than a black trans women,” Harper said, adding that assaults on trans women are a “pandemic.“

One police representative in attendance had a different perspective, supporting the organizers’ decision to be inclusive.

“Anytime that we can have a positive experience in our uniforms like we have today, we’re making strides to repair relationships that need it,” said Officer Chad Lewis. “And hopefully we accomplished that today.”

The #StillHere Alliance also protested corporate sponsorship of the event, decrying what it called “rainbow capitalism.”

“Pride is always this big thing that’s ... capitalized off of us queer and trans folks, and we’re just done with it,” Martin said.

In response to the barricade set up by the protesters, Pride parade organizers redirected festival-goers to the side entrance on 5th and N streets, leading the protesters to spread out in front of both entrances.

Several scuffles broke out along the length of the barricade as festival-goers attempted to enter.

The festival organizers opened up at least one makeshift entrance between Capitol Avenue and 7th and 8th streets by unlinking some of the fences.

The protesters left their posts around 2 p.m. for a 1-mile march of their own.

As they walked down the streets chanting phrases like “we die, they do nothing” and “Sac PD, we don’t want you,” the police rode on bicycles and motorcycles in front of them, clearing the roads.

While on his way to the festival around 3 p.m., James Fitzpatrick, 61, saw the protesters marching. As a member of the LGBTQ community, he said he had “very mixed feelings” about the police presence in the parade.

“I’m glad they were allowed to march,” he said. “But I also understand the other side.”

Fitzpatrick said he recognizes that there are “definitely police who have committed murder, crimes.” But, he also said, those LGBTQ police officers in uniform “are not our enemies.”

This article was updated at 11:13 a.m. on June 10 to clarify Ebony Harper’s role in Sacramento’s LGBTQ community.

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Meghan Bobrowsky, from Scripps College, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and school funding. She grew up in nearby Davis.