Aurora mayor criticizes gay pride parade organizers for banning uniformed police from participating

  • Aurora police officer Chris Tunney and her spouse, then-Police Chief Kristen Ziman, take a picture with Tara Vago of Aurora before the 2019 Pride Parade in Aurora. Tunney and Ziman have since retired. This year, parade organizers will not let police officers march in the parade if they are in uniform.

      Aurora police officer Chris Tunney and her spouse, then-Police Chief Kristen Ziman, take a picture with Tara Vago of Aurora before the 2019 Pride Parade in Aurora. Tunney and Ziman have since retired. This year, parade organizers will not let police officers march in the parade if they are in uniform. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2019

  • In 2018, Aurora became the first Illinois city outside of Chicago to host a gay pride parade.

    In 2018, Aurora became the first Illinois city outside of Chicago to host a gay pride parade. Courtesy of Indivisible Aurora

  • In 2019, the Aurora Police Department drove a specially decorated squad SUV in the Pride Parade in Aurora.

    In 2019, the Aurora Police Department drove a specially decorated squad SUV in the Pride Parade in Aurora. Courtesy Stacey Cruise

 
 
Updated 5/25/2022 6:14 PM

Aurora police officers cannot march in a gay pride parade in the city this year if they are in uniform, and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin is not happy about that.

Aurora Pride organizers announced Monday that officers would be allowed only if they are out of uniform and not carrying their service weapons. Official police vehicles also are banned from the June 12 parade.

 

"I am extremely distressed and disappointed to learn that you have chosen to ban uniformed law enforcement from participating in the annual Pride Parade this year. Under my administration, we advocated and authorized Aurora's first Pride Parade in 2018," Irvin wrote in a statement released Wednesday morning. "It is baffling how what is supposed to be an event focused on and celebrating equity, diversity and inclusion is now choosing to exclude others.

"Specifically, the law enforcement officers who have supported the pride parade since its inception and who work so diligently to maintain safety and order at the event."

In a news release on aurorapride.org, organizers said they are doing so for the comfort of people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community who have experienced harassment and discrimination by police.

And it said people's attitudes about police has "shifted" since the first Aurora parade in 2018. "There continue to be incidents of harassment and violence, primarily focused on people of color and LGBTQ people. We recognize that these incidents are the result of a minority of officers, but law enforcement organizations as a whole are not addressing these incidents in ways that build trust with the community," the news release said.

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The statement said, however, that Aurora police are "absolutely ahead" of other departments.

It referenced the Stonewall Inn event of 1969, in which New York City vice officers raided a gay club. Six days of protests and riots followed and, in 1970, the first gay pride parade took place there.

Irvin asked Aurora Pride to reconsider its decision and answer by the end of the business day Thursday. The news release did not say why Thursday, and Clayton Muhammad, the city's chief communications officer and chief equity officer, has not responded to messages requesting comment.

Police department spokesman Paris Lewbel said the department is also "extremely disappointed." Lewbel said it has a large group of LGBTQ+ workers and was one of the first in the state to have a liaison officer to the LGBTQ+ community. "While we are saddened to hear that our officers are banned from participating in their uniforms in an event focused on inclusion and acceptance, our officers will stand strong in uniform and provide security for the parade to ensure all in attendance are able to enjoy the parade safely," Lewbel said, in a written statement.

The Aurora Pride announcement said officers were welcome to have floats, T-shirts and banners announcing their police affiliation. But as of Monday, only one police officer had signed up to participate. Applications are closed.

The city is an official supporter of the parade.

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