Tens of thousands of people packed downtown Minneapolis Sunday to watch the 2017 Ashley Rukes Pride Parade, taking place just two days after resolution of a whirlwind dispute about whether uniformed police officers could participate.

There was plenty to see at the wildly popular and colorful parade — some of it unexpected. The procession, which took place under gray skies, was halted minutes after it got underway by about 150 protesters. It resumed about 20 minutes later.

The protesters, chanting “No justice, no peace, no pride in police,” were seeking to draw attention to police treatment of minorities nationally, as well as to object to the last-minute inclusion in the parade of police officers. Among the signs they hoisted were some reading “Justice for Philando,” “Black Lives Matter” and “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” Some of the protesters wore rainbow attire.

The parade, which began about 11 a.m. on Hennepin Avenue, was halted about 11:30 a.m. at 12th Street. It got underway again after protesters read a list of demands to parade organizers as floats and marchers waited, then sat or lay down in the intersection for several minutes.

The protesters then got up and began their own march about two blocks ahead of the Pride parade, which resumed to cheers from the huge crowd. Many marchers near the back of the parade were unaware that there had even been a protest, merely thinking the parade was moving slowly.

Parade participants include a smiling Janeé Harteau, Minneapolis’ police chief, who had led the effort to have police reinstated as participants. Some uniformed officers also marched, carrying a rainbow flag and waving to the crowd to a generally warm reception. Other officers in the procession were on bikes, some in uniform, some in T shirts. Many got hugs and shouted thanks from parade watchers.

Working police officers were also present to provide security, but stayed well clear of the protest area. March organizers and marshals handled communications with the protesters.

Meanwhile, a woman went into labor at Hennepin and 3rd Street and gave birth to a baby in a van there with help from emergency responders, according to police scanner reports.

Pride, passion, protests

In addition to being a wildly popular annual event — it typically draws 350,000 people — the annual LGBTQ parade has often served as the local ground zero for expression of views about broader cultural issues. In 2016, it provided a place to mourn for the victims of the recent gay nightclub massacre in Orlando. In 2013, it was the focal point of celebration over Minnesota’s legalization of same-sex marriage. And in the years before that, it was a place to campaign for that right and others, and to challenge bias and homophobia.

This year, the national debate about police treatment of black citizens, specifically the June 16 acquittal of St. Anthony Officer Jeromino Yanez in last year’s killing of Philando Castile, came home to roost when parade organizers decided not to invite uniformed police officers to march in the parade.

That decision unleashed a deluge of criticism, most potently from Harteau, and on Friday, parade organizers apologized and reinstated the invitation to police officers.

In a short video appearance Friday afternoon, Harteau, the city’s first lesbian police chief, appeared before a rainbow flag to applaud Pride officials for “a thoughtful conversation.”

“I look forward to future discussions. I look forward to seeing everybody out at the parade on Sunday,” said Harteau, who will attend with her family. “And I want to wish everyone a happy Pride.”

Social justice activists had demanded that police “sit this one out” to show respect for those mourning the Castile verdict and groups who feel a growing rift with law enforcement. But Harteau, police unions and others were quick to argue that Pride — an organization that has long championed inclusivity — was showing hypocrisy by banning an entire profession.

In previous years, several marked squad cars and uniformed police officers have led the procession through downtown Minneapolis.

Between 25 and 30 Minneapolis officers usually participate, walking with flags and riding bicycles, said police spokeswoman Sgt. Catherine Michal. The parade attracts more than 100 law enforcement officials from the Twin Cities area, she said.

Minneapolis and St. Paul police also share an information booth at the Pride Festival in Loring Park, which acts as a recruiting station. On Saturday, the Minneapolis Police Department tweeted a photo of officers working at the booth, inviting people to stop by and visit them.

Staff writers Claude Peck, Liz Sawyer and Karen Zamora contributed to this report.

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(c)2017 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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