A community listening session that has long been scheduled for tonight may turn contentious following an announcement last Friday by OutReach, a Madison LGBT community center, that law enforcement agencies have been asked not to participate in the Pride parade this upcoming weekend.
A couple of weeks ago a group of activists in the LGBT community approached OutReach to express concerns some members of the community were having about law enforcement being a part of the Pride Parade.
Some in the LGBT community, especially people of color, felt unsafe having uniformed and armed police have a marching contingent and pointed to the police as being representative of the discrimination that people of color and members of the gay community have faced.
Outreach wound up announcing it was removing the marching contingent of police and law enforcement who were going to be in the parade, which was to include MPD Pride, UW Police Department and Sheriff Dave Mahoney. OutReach pointed to the need for people to feel safe during the parade.
The voices in the LGBT community who put pressure on Outreach point to things like the fatal shooting by police of Tony Robinson. They say that these are the same police from the same police department who were complicit in the Robinson case and in all other police-related cases as well as the general overpolicing of communities of color.
But there has also been backlash against the decision by OutReach, some of which has been vicious.
Patrick Farabaugh, the publisher of Our Lives Magazine, told Madison365 that he was confronted with the ire of people who confused Our Lives (an LGBT magazine) for being affiliated with OutReach, which it is not.
Farabaugh said that pro-police voices were loud and clear on the comments section of his Facebook after he had posted a comment about OutReach’s decision.
“This is one of the most explosive community conversations I’ve ever seen happen,” Farabaugh told Madison365. “It’s so overdue which is one of the reasons it’s so explosive now. It just never got to this critical mass before.”
Farabaugh said that the number of people lashing out against OutReach on his page (mistakenly) leads him to believe that there is one very loud contingent of people opposed to police being present, and one very loud contingent being Pro-police.
Where the silent majority of the community comes down on the issue is anyone’s guess.
There will be a listening session tonight involving both OutReach and members of MPD Pride, an organization of LGBT officers and allies within the Madison Police Department. It was scheduled long before the decision to exclude police from the parade was made.
It will be at Madison’s Central Library, Room 301, from 6-7:30pm.
“Prior to last Friday, the tone of the listening session would have been subdued,” Farabaugh said. “But OutReach’s announcement and deciding to withdraw the applications of law enforcement struck a nerve pretty deep and has created a profound outcry in the LGBT community. I’m really hoping the session doesn’t end up being one sided and become pro-police. There’s a risk of that drowning out the voices of people who don’t feel safe around police.”