Heading down Pine at 2018s Capitol Hill Pride march.
Heading down Pine at 2018's Capitol Hill Pride march. Matt Baume

So is Pride canceled this year or what? Well, that depends on which Pride you’re talking about.

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Seattle Pride — the big expensive one by the Space Needle with all the crowds and stages and hot dog vendors and T-Mobile booths — is definitely off. Like a lot of Prides around the world, they’re doing an online version this year that will likely be pleasant but in no way as much fun as getting all slippery and wet in the International Fountain.

But Capitol Hill Pride is moving ahead, thank you very much, with a march on June 27! They’re a separate organization from the larger Pride, and they’ll be gathering at the community college and then leading a procession around the neighborhood with … oh dear … a police escort.

“Understand there is no love lost between us and the police,” writes CHP’s Charlette LeFevre in an email. “It is my professional belief there is no such thing as a police ‘liaison.’ In the end they know where they get their paycheck and will always advocate for the police.”

LeFevre is one of the organizers of the June 27 march. Along with Philip Lipson, Charlette originated the march six years ago as a way to push back against corporate Pride and the “pay to play” rolling billboards that dominate the mainstream parade route. The Capitol Hill Pride march isn’t a party — it’s a march, with demands and signs and slogans. You know, what this whole thing used to be about.

This year’s march has six demands, all connected to the recent protests:

1. An immediate removal of barricades on Pine St. by police on public streets as a violation of civil rights. (Update: these demands were written before the police vacated the East Precinct)
2. An immediate and indefinite ban on use of pepper spray, smoke bombs and percussion instruments especially in this time of respiratory illness against civil rights demonstrators.
3. A cease and desist of the use of shields, batons and bikes to push demonstrators and as physical contact assault weapons against demonstrators.
4. Independent investigations of police shootings and misconduct including an independent re-investigation of past Seattle police shootings of Native American John T. Williams, African American Che Taylor and Charleena Lyles.
5. An immediate independent citizen review and screening of new and existing police personnel for racial misconduct.
6. An immediate minimum defunding of police by 20% towards community investment with a goal of 50% by 2021.

Looks pretty good! But is CHP working alongside local Black-run groups aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement? Well… Charlette didn’t directly answer that question, but she did write that they’re “standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement,” and “Capitol Hill Pride Festival has scheduled many African American artists as well as a diverse line up such as Leon Hendrix in 2010, Ayron Jones and Nikkita Oliver in 2015.”

And then there’s this: “Even though this march does not need a ‘permit’ we respectfully schedule with the City of Seattle so SPD can safely escort us through traffic,” Charlette writes. “This year we may request only a partial escort as we will be recognizing the autonomous zone no-police policy.”

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The current route for the march goes right through what is now called the CHOP (who knows what it’ll be by June 27). They’ll start at Seattle Central, then head down Broadway to Pine, up 12th to John Street, and then back to Broadway to end at Cal Anderson. That police escort might get a little awkward somewhere in there. For other recent marches, a volunteer bike brigade has lent a hand with traffic management.

For her part, Charlette isn’t thrilled to be working with the cops — she can recall officers telling her they deliberately ignored her emails, and others who made fun of the Dyke March. “Police will act on their own and the public will always hear excuses,” she writes. “So you can understand why it’s important to have a police-free zone free of intimidation.”

And on top of that, there’s a new worry: Conservative groups are threatening a raid of the neighborhood on July 4th. Who knows if that’ll actually happen, or if it’s just bluster. But it’s a reminder that there are forces out there desperate for an opportunity to do real physical harm, and that it might be a good idea for the community to be united and intersectional should they appear.