If you were at London Pride this weekend, you might have wondered why the parade was held up for almost half an hour: 23 minutes, to be exact. Queer activist organisation Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM) were the group responsible for the halt to proceedings, staging a die-in to protest Metropolitan Police officers marching in the parade. Each one of those minutes represented the 23 people who have died in Met Police custody since the end of 2020.
“We protested today because the police endanger our communities,” says Sam Björn, a spokesperson for LGSM. “They detain children of colour, rape women and arrest those of us at the sharpest end of society. Straight or gay, in matching rainbow t-shirts or in uniform, that has to change.
“While we welcome Pride in London’s acknowledgement of police violence no amount of glitter can wash those stories away, and we won't let them.”
With their faces shrouded in pink veils, clutching funeral bouquets and pink flares, around 40 LGSM activists in black hopped the barricades along Trafalgar Square ahead of the Met Police contingent of the parade, chanting “no pride in cops” and instructions on how to intervene in a stop and search, a practice that disproportionately targets Black people.
This year, the force agreed that officers would not march in uniform after LGBTQ campaigners called on Pride in London – the official organisers of the march – to bar police participation entirely following accusations of institutional homophobia in its handling of the Stephen Port case. New York City’s Pride, Vancouver Pride and Toronto Pride all banned cops from marching in their parades after the racist murder of George Floyd.
In June, the Met Police was placed in special measures as a result of its mismanagement of several high-profile investigations, including the Port case, which means it will be inspected more regularly.
“Fifty years ago, a Pride that looks like the one we see in London today seemed like an impossible dream,” Björn says. “50 years from now we know that we’ll be dancing in the streets celebrating a world free from police and their violence.”