Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: Pride, police and #NoJusticeNoPride

When most people get stopped by the police, the protocol is the smile, drum up some witty banter and, possibly, cleavage, so they can go about their business. For them, being pulled over is anywhere from a minor inconvenience to a pain in the ass.

For Black people, it can be a matter of life and death, regardless of our actions. As I type, the Black community is in mourning. On June 16, the police officer that murdered Philando Castile walked out of courtroom a free man. By all accounts, Castile did everything right. He was also a beloved figure in his community. During that fateful traffic stop, he was polite and let the officer know he was carrying a legal gun. His fiancée, Diamond, was polite and obedient to the officer even as the world watched Castile bleed out via Facebook Live. Still, a jury saw fit to let the officer walk.

Two days after receiving that news, we learn that Charleena Lyles was shot by the police after calling them to report a burglary.

These incidents follow a long history of violence and injustice that Black people have faced from the police and supposed justice system. Just being Black is hard enough, but when you’re noticeably queer or trans, the danger increases. According to a 2016 report done by the Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative, 80 percent of trans women of color reported being stopped by the Atlanta Police Department and nearly half of them said the cops assumed they were sex workers. In the same report, two out of five of the people surveyed ended up getting arrested after calling Atlanta Police for assistance.

These injustices are why the #NoJusticeNoPride movement was created. As the movement progresses, I’ve seen pictures of activists being arrested for disrupting Prides and white LGBT people cheer as they’re being led away in handcuffs. That imagery was jarring to me because it reminded me of the photos of Black students in the ’60s walking through crowds of snarling white people as they attempted to integrate a school. That’s shameful behavior at a celebration that was birthed from a damn riot!

The mere presence of the police at Pride celebrations is a threat. They aren’t there to keep us safe. Their purpose is the same as it was at Stonewall, to keep us in line. Atlanta Pride isn’t until October, but I hope #NoJusticeNoPride will have a presence. I’d rather see them than those tacky crosswalks. It’s time for Pride to return to its roots, and if it has to be dragged there kicking and screaming, so be it.

If we don’t get no justice, y’all don’t get no Pride.