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Indy Pride on parade, festival security, IMPD's presence, and what you can expect after 3 years

Shelly Snider, Indy Pride's executive director, talks about what's new after 3 years without an in-person festival, security, and working with IMPD's new LGBTQ+ liaison.
Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-02 19:04:58-04

INDIANAPOLIS — It's been 3 years since the last Indy Pride Parade and Festival, and there have been some changes.

Indy Pride has a new executive director and a new board of directors diverse in gender and race. There are also several new events the organization is featuring this year, including a Latinx Pride, an event celebrating the voguing ballroom scene alongside Indiana Pride of Color, and an Indy Pride Youth Carnival.

Indy Pride also has new rules for how police can operate at its festival and parade.

WRTV caught up with Shelly Snider, Indy Pride's executive director, who took over the organization in January, to talk all things new.

Snider says this first year back to an in-person parade and festival is first and foremost about bringing LGBTQ Hoosiers and their allies together again.

"Our baseline is to just make sure that a festival happens so that people can enjoy and be out and about with the community," Snider said.

In 2019, the Indy Pride Parade and Festival had 50,000 attendees. After two years without the staple event to be out and proud in the Circle City, Indy Pride is prepared for a massive influx of people on June 11.

Thousands descend on Indy for Pride Parade & Festival

Indy Pride Parade & Festival Safety

Indy Pride Parade and Festival-goers who've been in years past will notice some things that are different. Particularly in the presence of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

In 2020, Indy Pride announced it would no longer utilize police departments for security at future Indy Pride Parades and Festivals.

The decision was made in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Black and Brown LGBTQ folk following the death of George Floyd, and growing national concern that the increase in police presence at Pride events wouldn't necessarily mean safety for minority groups. Further, some folks fear Pride celebrations are losing sight of the fact the first Pride was a riot: an uprising against police brutality among the LGBTQ community.

Indy Pride's Board of Directors said the following, in part, in 2020, on the matter:

"It is important now more than ever to remember the first Pride marches were protests against police brutality led by Brown and Black people. This is the time for our community to listen to communities affected by violence, to protest with them, and to support them in all ways possible."

Three years later, Indy Pride says it is moving forward with the use of private security to manage festival entry and exits. However, police will still have a "presence on festival grounds," Indy Pride stated in an announcement in May.

"Over the past couple months, we've been in conversations with IMPD representatives, including the brand new LGBTQ+ liaison for IMPD. So, she is an officer of IMPD, but she is also a lesbian, and she is helping to make sure that our community involvement with them is good," Snider told WRTV.

Unlike the pride organizations in San Francisco and New York City who've made headlines in recent weeks for some backlash on the complete ban on police marching in their parades or wearing full uniforms, Indy Pride is allowing IMPD officers to wear what they're calling "soft uniforms," which consist of police-branded t-shirts and shorts.

"A First Responders of Pride" unit will be in the Indy Pride Parade, including police, firefighters, emergency response personnel, and their families. Bicycling police officers will also be roaming the Indy Pride Festival in their soft uniforms.

Due to Homeland Security requirements, IMPD will also be handling traffic control and pedestrian safety.

"We have the goal of developing a relationship that's empathetic to the needs of our community, but also rooted in respect," Snider said on the relationship they have with IMPD and the concerns of the queer community.

"We are definitely heavily in conversations with IMPD to make sure that everything we do is considerate of all the different populations that we have within our scope," Snider said.

Pride and Police
FILE - A police officer applauds as parade-goers shout and wave flags during the New York City Pride Parade, Sunday, June 26, 2016 in New York. As Pride weekend approaches, the recent decision by organizers of New York City's event to ban LGBTQ police officers from marching in future parades while wearing their uniforms has put a spotlight on issues of identity and belonging, power and marginalization. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

A possible name change & excitment for what's to come

Moving forward, Snider is interested in changing the name of the Indy Pride Parade and Festival.

"Being a good Hoosier girl, I believe that you shouldn't take down a fence until you know why it's there," Snider said.

She's interested in a title more indicative of the fact the organization has over 20 other events it hosts during May and June.

"We will maybe change it to something like the Indy Pride Summer Celebration or something like that," Snider said.

"Back in the early 2000s — I'm gonna say like, 2005 to 2006 — is when we started doing a week of events. And here, in like the 2017 timeframe, we started doing more than that. And then this year, we're up to 22," she said.

WRTV has composed a list of Pride-related events happening this June across central Indiana, including all of Indy Pride's new events. You can find that on WRTV's Inside Indy.

Snider says that as an extrovert, she can't wait for the return of the Indy Pride Parade and Festival.

"I thrive off of being within groups of people and meeting new people. So, there are lots of people actually, that I haven't met in-person, because everything has been virtual for (three) years, so I'm excited to meet those people. And I'm excited to meet all the new people that are coming too," Snider said.

Snider is equally as excited for the Indy Pride Festival performances this year. Nearly 140 artists submitted applications to be on one of the three stages, and a lot of the featured acts are local.

You can learn more about Indy Pride at indypride.org. The Indy Pride Parade is free to watch on Saturday, June 11, starting at 10 a.m., and tickets to the Indy Pride Festival are $7.

WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at shakkira.harris@wrtv.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.