12 Feb – Over the past couple of weeks, No Pride in Prisons has placed increasing pressure on the Pride Board, and the Auckland queer community more generally, to ban uniformed police officers from the pride parade. As we now know, the Pride Board chose to disregard legitimate concerns with that institution being included. A common response to these concerns, from uncritical members of the community, has been: “What about the gay cops? Aren’t they a part of our community? Who are you to ban members of the community?”
To that, we ask: What is the queer community? The decision as to whether police can march in a pride parade is the kind of decision which determines what kind of community we are. Are we a community of marginalised peoples? Are we a community which cares about other marginalised peoples? Or, are we more concerned with consolidating the privileges of the most privileged within our ‘community’?
Cops have no place in any queer community made up of marginalised peoples. This is because it is the role of the police to uphold the privileges of the powerful, and maintain the marginalisation of the oppressed. How do they do this? As an institution, the New Zealand Police has admitted that it has an ‘unconscious bias’ against Māori. This is played out in the New Zealand Police apprehending and charging Māori at a rate that far surpasses that of Pākehā for the same crimes.
Police target and oppress other and overlapping marginalised peoples as well. You may have seen police harassing homeless people or people they suspect of being sex workers. No Pride in Prisons has received reports from trans women who have been violently assaulted by police and arrested for the supposed crime of “walking while trans”. The police’s targeting and criminalisation of certain groups is part of what makes and maintains their marginalisation. Community is required so that those on the margins can continue to survive. In other words, the police’s actions make the community necessary. As a result, cops are not and never will be part of a community of marginalised peoples.
You may be thinking: “not all cops are bad! I’m sure the vast majority of them aren’t racists!” We are sure that not all cops think that they are actively racist as individuals. All cops, however, work for an institution which has been proven time and time again to be racist and oppressive. Cops put on a uniform every day. That uniform is a symbol of the side that they have chosen, and that side engages in racist and oppressive violence on a mass scale. An individual cop may not think that their actions are discriminatory in any way (‘they are just doing their jobs!’), however, when you add up all the individual actions of individual cops, they amount to an institution that maintains racist colonial cisheteropatriarchal capitalism.
It is for this reason that it is offensive and complicitly oppressive to allow uniformed police to march in any pride parade. In doing so, the queer community becomes a group of historically marginalised peoples taking the side of an oppressive institution which targets marginalised peoples. Those ‘other’ marginalised peoples are also a part of our community: Māori queers, homeless queers, queer sex workers, only to name a few. In allowing the police to march with us, we are siding with an institution which oppresses our people.
“But you’re banning gay cops, who are part of the community!”. To this, we say: if banning representation of police and Corrections is to be understood as unfairly excluding members of our community, what of the queers suffering in custody right now? What of the trans women who have been beaten or raped by uniformed members of these organisations? What of the Māori who are targeted at every stage of the criminal justice system, which includes Māori queers? Is Pride not for them?
So, which side are you on? You can either stand with the marginalised, or with the oppressors; those subject to violence, or the violent. Gay cops, although they are gay, are still cops. If you stand with them, you’re standing with the oppressors.
Written by S Morgan, T Lamusse, and E Rākete
No Pride in Prisons is holding a “Fuck Pride” rally in protest to the inclusion of uniformed police and corrections officers in the 2016 pride parade. For more information, click here.