The Madison Police Department will not be marching at Pride this year.
The Outreach LGBT Community Center in Madison, Wis. — which organizes the annual parade — formally rescinded applications from the department and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in a letter sent Friday.
Local LGBTQ residents told Outreach they felt unsafe with an armed police presence in the parade, as they perceived police as causing racism and homophobia, reports the Wisconsin State Journal. Board member Jill Nagler said the center had been fielding concerns for over a year.
Outreach had initially approved plainclothes officers to march in the parade, but a rally protesting police participation swayed the LGBTQ organization's decision.
Lt. Brian Chaney Austin, founder of Madison Police Department Pride, expressed disappointment in Outreach's decision to NBC News. But he is hopeful of paving a path forward.
“There were some hearts broken, there were some tears shed, but we know there’s work that needs to be done and we want to take that on,” Austin said.
In response, the Madison Fire Department issued a statement saying it would forgo marching in the parade this year as a show of "solidarity" with the police department.
"In light of the disappointing decision by OutReach to rescind the invitation to the Madison Police Department to participate in this year’s Pride Parade, the Madison Fire Department, in solidarity with our women and men in blue, must respectfully and regretfully decline to participate in this year’s parade," the department stated.
Police will still serve as security for Madison Pride. Outreach has invited plainclothes, unarmed officers to attend the event with their families. The parade will be held Sunday.