SF Pride Board Rejects Motion to Ban Alameda County Sheriff, Google from Celebration

People march during the San Francisco gay pride parade in San Francisco, California on June, 24, 2018. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

Fred Lopez, executive director of San Francisco Pride, announced Wednesday that the organization would reject an amendment proposed by its members to ban the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Google and YouTube from participating in the 2020 Pride Parade.

"We have decided as a board there will not be a ban against Google nor the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office at this year’s Pride celebration," Lopez said in a statement. "Instead, we are saying yes to inclusivity."

SF Pride members voted in January to ban the Alameda County Sheriff's Office from marching in uniform. The move followed the agency's eviction enforcement action against Moms 4 Housing, a coalition of activists and homeless mothers. The mothers and their children were occupying a previously vacant, investor-owned property in Oakland. After a judge upheld their eviction, the county sheriff's early-morning ouster of the families—which included arrests, officers in riot gear and a bullet-resistant vehicle that resembled a military tank—drew national headlines and outcry from the public.

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SF Pride members also voted to ban YouTube and its parent company, Google, because of YouTube's reluctance to censor hate speech. YouTube drew criticism from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies in June, 2019 when Vox journalist Carlos Maza complained to the company about conservative YouTube celebrity Steven Crowder's targeted harassment campaign against him, in which Crowder mocked the writer for his gay, Latinx identity in numerous videos. YouTube responded in a series of tweets from its official account, stating that it wouldn't take down the videos.

"Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site," one of the tweets read. (YouTube later demonetized Crowder's channel.)

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Although the SF Pride members voted to ban Google and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the resolution required approval from the organization's board to go into effect—which it did not get.

In his statement, SF Pride's Lopez appealed to unity. "The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has not had its own contingent in the parade in years past, and Google has been a responsive corporate sponsor for more than a decade," he said. "We are in agreement that banning those groups is not in the best interest of Pride and its members, who look forward to an inclusive event each year that reflects the diversity of our wonderful community."

Laurence Berland, a former Google employee and one of the SF Pride members driving the effort to push Google and the sheriff's office out of the parade, said he's disappointed in the board's decision. "In keeping Google in the parade, SF Pride spoke of the value of inclusivity. I guess that’s all about inclusivity of billion dollar corporations, not inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community, whom YouTube continues to be exclusionary of and hostile toward," he said to KQED in a text message. "Steven Crowder still gets to spread his message of hate, harassment and bigotry to four million followers. Is that what SF Pride wants to include?"

Spokespeople from Google and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office told KQED that the organizations are pleased to continue participating in SF Pride. Ray Kelly, a sheriff's spokesperson, said the department welcomes a dialogue to build more trust with the LGBTQ+ community. Indeed, tensions between LGBTQ+ people and law enforcement have persisted for decades: Pride originated with the Compton's Cafeteria riot in San Francisco and Stonewall riots against police brutality in New York, which took place in the 1960s as a response to systemic police harassment and arrests of gay and transgender people. Today, while relations have somewhat cooled, activists point out that police play an active role in criminalizing homeless people and sex workers, populations that are disproportionately LGBTQ+.

Police marching in Pride celebrations has been a hot-button issue within the LGBTQ+ community for years. Sacramento Pride banned uniformed officers from marching in the 2019 celebration, but reversed its decision at the last minute after the department agreed to create an LGBTQ liaison within its outreach unit and implement other queer- and trans-friendly measures. Uniformed police are banned from Pride parades in Toronto, Minneapolis and Vancouver, and at 2019's San Francisco Pride, activists briefly halted the celebration to protest the San Francisco Police Department's inclusion as exhibitors.

"What we learned from some of our communication back and forth with Pride was that there's there's a portion of the LGBTQ+ community that is distrustful of law enforcement and that goes back many years," Kelly said. "So one of the things that we spoke with them about was, how can we build trust where it's broken in portions of that community?"

Kelly also said county sheriff's deputies didn't want to evict Moms 4 Housing, but that "we have to do what we're lawfully obliged to do under our oath to make sure that we enforce the law." He called the eviction a success in the sense that no one was injured.

A Google spokesperson told KQED, "Google has been a proud participant in San Francisco Pride for more than a decade and we will continue to support this important community organization and others like it here in San Francisco."

KQED's Sara Hossaini contributed to this report.

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