Portland Pride Parade organizers ask marching officers to consider not wearing uniforms

Police officers march in uniform in the Portland Pride Parade.

Organizers of this weekend's Portland Pride Parade are asking police officers marching in the parade to consider not wearing uniforms.

"We're not asking them not to march, we're not asking them to not march in uniform," Debra Porta, executive director of Pride Northwest, told KATU. "We want them just to consider it."

Porta also said her organization is trying a new strategy this year to keep people safe.

Organizers and officers said they want everyone to have fun, participate and enjoy what Pride is all about but admit this weekend's festivities come amid tense circumstances.

On Friday, Portland police said they've seen an increase in the number of hate crimes reported this year. There's also tension left over from other recent marches and public events.

"Pride is and was born in a moment when the (LGBTQ) community made the decision to basically come out and own public space," said Porta. “Pride has grown into and continues to be a celebration of our existence, of our community, of all of our diversities.”

At the parade on Sunday, Porta said organizers expect a record number of groups to participate.

“Last year we had 152 and this year we have 163 ... organizations, companies, faith communities, it runs the gamut," said Porta. "I'm tired but I'm excited about the whole thing."

She also admitted she and others are on edge.

"People are nervous and we want to be able to provide an extra step to allow them not to be so afraid, to be out in the public and to enjoy what we're there to do," said Porta.

That extra step includes a team of 25 to 30 volunteer peacekeepers walking the route this year, helping keep the parade fun and free of conflict and keeping in touch with police.

"It's a group of community members who have been training around and experienced in large group dynamics as well as deescalation techniques," Porta explained.

And this year Porta said there's another difference.

It comes in the form of a request to officers marching in the parade that Porta said comes from several members of the community.

"The actual ask is that individual officers give thought to what they wear in the parade whether that's uniforms, some other kind of department garb, it doesn't matter," Porta said, "because there's such a symbol around the uniform that becomes a barrier between the person wearing the uniform and the person who's not."

Porta said officers will be welcomed and celebrated no matter what.

"We will have just as much police presence in terms of security and officers on duty and officers, you know, protecting the parade and the festival as always," Porta said.

Sgt. Pete Simpson, spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, said Chief Mike Marshman has given discretion to each officer to wear or not wear their uniforms.

"Chief will be in uniform as I expect most officers will that march in the parade," Simpson said.

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