‘Whereas June 2019 is Pride Month ...


A resident showed up to the June 24 West St. Paul City Council meeting to show their support for a proposed proclamation officially recognizing June as Pride Month in the city. (Hannah Burlingame/Review)

Members of Women of West St. Paul presented the council with a Pride flag in support of the council’s June 24 action recognizing the month. (courtesy of Town Square Television)

City, PD for first time recognize the month

 

On June 28, 1969, people rioted after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. 

The riot that morning 50 years age and what took place in the subsequent days were a turning point in the modern LGBTQIA rights movement.

As the movement has changed hearts and minds, June is recognized across the country as Pride Month, and this year, one city and one police department formally recognized the month for the first time.

 

The desire to recognize 

At its June 24 meeting, the West St. Paul City Council had a late addition to its agenda: a proclamation recognizing Pride Month. 

Council member Wendy Berry, who is queer, pushed for the proclamation and said in an interview she’s been passionate about representing everyone in the city since joining the council this year.

With the backing of council members Lisa Eng-Sarne and John Justen, the proclamation made it onto the agenda.

Members of Women of West St. Paul presented the council and city with a Pride flag the night the proclamation was read.

Julie Eastman, a member of the group, said she and others wanted to thank the mayor and council for recognizing June as Pride Month.

“We applaud this important first step by our city to welcome members of the LGBTQIA community and their allies ... and more broadly, to our city every day of the year,” she said.

The West St. Paul Police Department echoed similar sentiments made by the council with a Facebook post June 25.

“We serve with honor and integrity towards all our residents. Equally. Regardless of orientation or gender,” the post read.

 

‘All are welcome’

The proclamation was discussed at a council work session prior to the June 24 meeting.

The council has an ongoing initiative relating to diversity, which Berry said is to acknowledge the city’s diverse community. The city participated in St. Paul’s Cinco de Mayo parade, knowing they would run into West St. Paul residents at it, she said.

Mayor Dave Napier said that while he supported the proclamation, he suggested making it more of a blanket statement, something that would be more inclusive of all the diversity in the community.

“Let the community know that West St. Paul does welcome everyone,” he said.

Eng-Sarne said that while it’s important to honor all kinds of diversity, it’s also important to specifically recognize the LGBTQIA community. She argued the proclamation would help bring in new business and establish the city as a desirable place to live.

Berry said speaking to the Review that the council doesn’t want to discount any group, and that the Pride Month proclamation was a “great first step,” something it had never done before — it was the first time the city recognized an entire community.

“We’re learning as we go and I know we’re going to make mistakes and I hope that people call us out on that like ‘Hey, why didn’t you acknowledge this?’” she said. 

The proclamation is a good indication of what she hopes West St. Paul looks like in the future, Berry added, and she’s proud to be leading the charge on initiatives that focus more in inclusiveness in the city.

While Napier eventually supported the Pride Month proclamation as it was, he said in an interview that he would still like to see something that is more encompassing.

“We want to welcome everyone into our community,” he said, “and I think a blanket statement and blanket proclamation saying West St. Paul is a great place to live, and we want to welcome everyone, I think, is more of the direction I was going.”

 

Another statement

On June 21, the South St. Paul Police Department posted on Facebook that it was “feeling pride.”  

“Our department’s motto is ‘Pride in Service.’ We take pride in providing police services to ALL in our community; with integrity, professionalism, and courtesy. We hope our community takes pride in our department, knowing that our officers are as diverse as the community we serve! South St. Paul’s diversity and inclusion for all is what makes this city a great place to live, work, and play!”

It was the first time the department had made a post recognizing Pride Month.

Community Engagement Officer Derek Kruse suggested the post to command staff. He said the goal of his job is to foster relationships between the community and department, adding he wanted to particularly focus on members in the community who may not trust police.

“The LGBTQ community has had a strained relationship with law enforcement for decades,” he said. “Even though that relationship continues to improve to this day, I wanted to make sure that the community knew we supported everyone who lives in SSP, and that they should not be afraid to reach out to the police because they are LGBTQ.” 

Kruse said he is an openly gay officer within the department and that his time in law enforcement has not always been easy. He knows firsthand how difficult it can be to interact with police officers, even as an officer himself.

Since transferring to South St. Paul PD from another department in Arizona, Kruse said he has received nothing but support from the command staff.

“I encouraged them to extend that support to our community, and to let the community know that the officers who work in this department are diverse and represent the community they serve,” he said.

 

–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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