Cops Aren’t Really Banned from NYC Pride, And That’s a Shame

*epilepsy warning*|Hatemail: Newsletter and Intel from the LaBac Hacker Collective

Despite NYPD Ban, Organizers Say Private Security Firms Will Replace the NYPD at NYC Pride

Next week marks the beginning of Pride Month which culminates on Pride Day, June 28th – the anniversary of New York City’s first Pride march. (In its early days, the march was called the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade). 

Initially organized to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that had taken place the year before in June 1969, the inaugural Pride marches grew into what is largely understood today as an international celebration of sexual self-expression, personal authenticity, and advocacy for political equality. 

In the United States, this year’s Pride month already seems fraught with tension. Not only are the plans for large community events and parades dampened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but conversations about conformity and acceptance continue to be debated within the LGBTQ+ community following Trump’s presidency (which weakened gains previously made in LGBTQ+ rights).

The conversation about the role of police at Pride carries exceptional weight in the wake of the racial justice protests following the police killings of Tony McDade, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor in 2020. Last week, organizers of NYC Pride, one of the largest in the nation which cites attending numbers of over 2,100,000 attendees, banned the New York Police Department (specifically, uniformed police groups) from the NYC Pride march and related events until 2025. (If asking NYPD to stay a block away from events can even be called a ban...) 

In a statement on the decision to ban police and the safety of members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially the safety of BIPOC and trans individuals, NYC Pride organizers said: "The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous, to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force and/or without reason."

Ironically, many critics who condemned the decision also framed it as an issue of safety and security. Mayor Bill de Blasio called the ban a mistake, saying: “First of all, we have to keep people safe.” The New York Times editorial board published an op-ed advocating for the attendance of police in the spirit of inclusion, calling the decision “a poke in the eye at law enforcement more than a meaningful action.” The conversation of safety also echoes warnings from police last year of ‘cyber attacks’ on the LBGTQ+ events during pride month. 

Despite the pushback against the police ban, it probably goes without saying that in terms of safety and security, kicking police out of Pride is a good (if not great) decision. 

The very Stonewall Riots that conceived Pride were riots against systemic state violence in the form of police harassment and the spirit of anti-conformity that emerged at Stonewall in response to police brutality set the tone for the celebratory (and even kinky) aesthetic often featured at today’s events.

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community do not trust law enforcement, which makes a lot of sense considering how Black trans women have been targeted by police and the continued documentation of police harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. In fact, the failure of many Pride organizers to keep corporations and police out of June events has resulted in fragmented communities within locales across the country over the past few years. 

In New York, Reclaim Pride Coalition has been advocating against the commercialization of NYC Pride as well as its heavy police presence since 2019. Organizers in Seattle, Washington, where racial justice protests erupted into the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP)/ Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) last year, banned police from Capitol Hill Pride, similarly citing concerns about police violence against community members. The call for anti-police and anti-corporate pride in Washington, D.C. has also been going on for some time. In 2017, the activist coalition No Justice No Pride (NJNP) was formed to “call attention to the longrunning, deep fissures within the LGBTQIA2S Community,” including on issues of policing.

So no, we can’t really say it is surprising or concerning that Pride events are banning police. 

What might be more of a cause for concern, however, is that Heritage of Pride, the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization largely known to organize the larger commercialized NYC Pride march – and the very group that made the decision about the ban – has decided to contract a private security firm instead.

In news coverage about the decision to ban officers from the Pride march, Heritage of Pride confirmed to multiple media outlets that the organizers planned to “hire private security for the parade and other Pride events” and that “[a]ll aspects of first response and security that can be reallocated to trained private security.” 

Heritage of Pride also plans to provide de-escalation training to volunteers, but at the end of the day, despite the ban, police still have the ability to interfere. Or, as Heritage of Pride phrase it: “NYPD will provide first response and security only when absolutely necessary as mandated by city officials.” 🙄

At the time of publishing, it is unclear to us at LaBac what private security firm(s) may be used by Heritage of Pride this year and if those firms largely employ former police officers (as some do). It is also possible that no contract has been handed out to any private security company yet.

What is clear is that Heritage of Pride intends to have some sort of security group, reminiscent of city police, patrol the event –  while also leaving space for the NYPD to intervene under certain circumstances. Media outlets jumped to condemn or defend Heritage Pride when it first announced the police ban earlier this month, but maybe the nonprofit didn’t really do anything to merit either response as it appears to be discreetly maintaining the status quo.

If the ultimate goal is to keep participants safe from an institution that continues to attack the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community, we must continue to advocate against heavy policing – private or public – at Pride events. We at LaBac are wishing everyone a safe and happy Pride month as we all work towards these liberation efforts.

Surveillance and Security Elsewhere in This Week’s News

  • [Vice] Neighborhood watch app, Citizen, is planning to offer users the ability to request the presence of private security workers through the app, according to leaked internal company documents obtained by Vice

  • [Yahoo! News] New details about the U.S. Postal Services’ Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) have emerged over the past few weeks, including its use of the controversial facial recognition software tool Clearview AI.  

  • [Bloomberg] [Verge] One of the largest insurance companies in the U.S., CNA Financial, paid $40 million to regain control of their network from a ransomware attack. The incident occurred in March, but public reporting of the attack emerged last week. Assuming the $40 million figure is correct, it would be one of the highest-paid ransomware payouts currently known to the public. 

  • [Torrent Freak] Alexandra Elbakyan – founder of Sci-Hub, a massive distributor of paywalled research papers – is sharing emails that appear to be notices from Apple which indicate that the FBI has requested, and obtained, her account information.

Social Media Deplatforming and Platform Access

  • [The Washington Post] Trump’s spokespeople promised that the former president’s new blog would “redefine the game.” Turns out no one really cares, and we at LaBac are fine with that. Here’s hoping this signals that Trumpism is moving into cultural and political irrelevance, even if other groups that emerged into the open during his presidency, unfortunately, remain. 

  • [Twitter] Check out this insightful Twitter thread recently posted by engineer Roja Bandari (@mathcolorstrees) who describes an experience she had years ago while working as a data scientist at Twitter, and how she was encouraged to fudge her research findings to fit a narrative that non-engagement with online harassment ultimately lessened the production of harassment. (It didn’t, according to her research). 

  • [NBC News] On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that grants the state government the ability to punish social media companies that choose to deplatform political candidates from their services. 

  • [The Verge] In July 2020, Twitter confirmed that it was exploring a paid subscription model of its platform. Earlier this month, researcher Jane Manchun Wong reported that it appears Twitter is still working on a subscription model which would likely create different platform experiences for those who choose to pay. 

On Our Radar...

  • [CNET] It is likely that quantum computers will be able to crack encryption-protected messages in the near future. In response, a global effort to create post-quantum encryption is underway, and this technology could debut as early as the start of 2022. 

  • [The Texas Tribune] The 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler, Texas ruled that the 2015 “Texas Revenge Porn Law” was unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment. Last Wednesday, the state’s highest criminal court overturned a lower court’s 2018 ruling that the law was unconstitutional. This is great news in terms of providing legal protections in Texas for victims of the proliferation of nonconsensual porn, something MANY states in the US have functioning law for.

  • [Medpage Today] Circulating on Twitter is the Pennsylvania Department of Health Fetal Death Certificate, an impersonal and painful document that is to be filled out in the case of pregnancy termination, including naturally occurring miscarriages. Several bills of anti-Choice law have been introduced in Pennsylvania including the Unborn Child Dignity Act (H.B 118) which requires providers to bury and cremate fetal tissue from all child loss and filing of the Fetal Death Certificate, thus adding traumatic steps to the often difficult experience. Previously the Fetal Death Certificate was only required for losses after 16 weeks. This bill leads to fears around additional cost accessibility to health services in regards to pregnancy in the state of Pennsylvania and sets a dangerous precedent of introducing anti-Choice law.

  • [arsTechnica] Things are really weird over at freenode, the world’s largest IRC network, right now. Several important OSS projects (from OSUOSL to Ubuntu) have relied on freenode for communication and collaboration and are now migrated over to Staff member (Andrew Lee known as ‘rasengan’), and “Korean Crown Prince”, unrecognized by South Korea and North Korea, is claiming to have received “hundreds of reports from project leads on freenode that they are being harassed and are at risk of being canceled if they do not leave, to Libera.” Staff members at freenode are leaving in large numbers as the situation develops.

Hate speech website: chechar[.]wordpress[.]com

Who hosts: Wordpress

Wordpress is one of the most popular ways to create websites due to its ease of use and well-established infrastructure. Wordpress also has a white supremacist problem. Today we are highlighting chechar[.]wordpress[.]com. This dork’s blog is full of hateful, genocidal rhetoric presented under the facade of rational theory. It’s just one of many sites hosted on Wordpress that host this genre of content, and it seems Wordpress is currently a safe haven for hate sites.

Cyberjutsu Con: Securing The Future (Saturday, June 19, 8:30 am PST, 11:30 EST) -The Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu is holding a virtual conference on June 19th, free for WSC paid members. In WSC’s own words: Get a day full of hands-on training in either offensive or defensive security. Get career advice from those in the industry and learn about advanced topics in cyber. Take what you learn and move into your next role by attending the career fair. There will also be a CTF event and networking.

The Diana Initiative (July 16th - 17th, 2021, Free Tickets Available) - Registration is officially open for the 2021 edition of The Diana Initiative. Members of LaBac have previously volunteered or spoke at this conference, and hope to again this year! In TDI’s own words: The Diana Initiative Is: A conference focused on Women, Diversity, and Inclusion in Information Security that embraces all genders, sexuality, and skill levels. The Diana Initiative features multiple speaker tracks, fully expanded villages with hands-on workshops, and a women-led Capture the Flag event.

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