UCPD, take off your rainbow pins

Illustration of pride flag and UCPD logo with a cracked road
Mingxin Wang/Staff

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On June 1, UCPD sent a campuswide email through its alert system, UC Berkeley WarnMe, declaring the police department’s support for Pride Month and the LGBTQ+ community. We, as board members of UC Berkeley’s Queer Alliance Resource Center, or QARC, adamantly reject this bad-faith signal of false allyship, and we call for an immediate defunding and abolition of all policing institutions that exercise state violence against our community.

This Pride Month, QARC emphasizes that the origins of Pride have never been about the neoliberal acceptance of a white, patriarchal, cisgender, heteronormative society. It has never been about introducing hate crime bills in Congress, fighting to have Transgender soldiers in the military or supporting the nonprofit industrial complex. Pride has never been about aligning Queerness and Transness with a violent, neoliberal state agenda that exploits and harms marginalized people.

Rather, we acknowledge and stand by one simple fact: Pride is a riot.

We must reflect on critical events such as Stonewall with a clear understanding of important figures like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Stormé DeLarverie who struggled against police-inflicted terror. Stonewall began as poor, Black and Brown Queer communities of Greenwich Village rioted against the NYPD. It was neither the first time nor the last that the Queer community became the target of state violence.

Three years prior to Stonewall, a group of Black and Brown Queer and Trans individuals resisted targeted police brutality in Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a restaurant located in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. This resistance spurred the creation of the grassroots Queer group Vanguard, which worked to organize and protest against police surveillance and violence. Similarly, after Stonewall, Johnson and Rivera started the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, which organized against state violence and served as a home for poor Trans and Queer youth.

These two instances of radical anti-police movements are cornerstones of Queer and Trans history, defined by resistance against oppression and founded by poor, Black and Brown community members. In light of this history, UCPD’s email affirming its “allyship” to Queer staff members and students for Pride Month seems utterly performative, and the message ostensibly showcases the way police departments neoliberalize queer spaces and pinkwash the Transphobic, Queerphobic, anti-Black and anti-poor violence that is fundamental to the existence of police.

Cops can never be allies to the queer community, and no number of rainbow pins will change that. Wearing the Pride flag on their uniforms is violent and incredibly hypocritical.

QARC maintains that any presence of police on our campus is a disservice to Queer community members, and this presence aligns the radical history of Queer and Trans resistance with state oppressors who disregard the institutional well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. Most importantly, QARC is painfully aware of UCPD’s, the Berkeley Police Department’s and other state actors’ long histories of violence against our community members.

On Feb. 12, 2013, Kayla Moore, a Black Trans disabled woman and beloved community member, was killed at the hands of Berkeley police officers. Before and after her death, Moore was failed by ableist, anti-Black, anti-Trans and anti-poor institutions. In honor of her memory, QARC is renaming the Marsha P. Johnson Lounge in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union to the Kayla Moore Lounge.

This space is exclusively dedicated and reserved for Queer and Transgender students of color on campus, a space that was won through organized action against UC Berkeley administration. The Kayla Moore Lounge will serve as a grim reminder of the state violence that the systems of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy continually levy against our community. Additionally, the Kayla Moore Lounge will serve as a space for healing and organizing for Queer and Trans students of color navigating violence.

As an entity on campus, QARC unequivocally supports Black liberation, Trans liberation and the abolition of the prison industrial complex. We do not support having police on our campus. In our eyes, they do not serve the Queer and Trans community, nor do they keep us safe. Instead, it is up to community members to protect and heal each other when one of us is hurt. We recognize that QARC only exists because UC Berkeley fails to institutionally support the needs of its Trans and Queer students and protect us from violence. QARC will continue to serve our community and we will continue to fight for an end to the violent systems and institutions that harm us.

Divesting from policing and carceral solutions to safety, supporting mutual aid and community care efforts, implementing transformative accountability practices and bolstering community defense will keep us safe. The police and their rainbow pins will not. #NoPigsatPride

The board of the Queer Alliance Resource Center at UC Berkeley comprises both undergraduate and graduate students of various gender identities and expressions. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.