Those who were looking forward to the Morgantown Pride Parade celebrating the LGBTQ+ community on Friday evening were left disappointed after parade organizers were forced to cancel the event after staffing issues at the city police department brought concern for public safety.
“We put in this application like March 10,” Morgantown Pride vice president and Morgantown City Council member Brian Butcher told The Dominion Post Friday. “A couple of days later I got a call from the Morgantown Police Department just confirming what the event was going to look like and if it was basically the same as last year.
“They told me at that time, no big deal, sounds great, we’ll have it ready to go,” he said.
Then, just a few days ago, Butcher said he got another call from the Morgantown Police Department saying they weren’t going to be able to do it because of staffing issues.
Butcher said he attempted multiple ways to keep the parade alive, including contacting the WVU Police Department to see if those officers could assist, the city manager to see if the public works department could assist in shutting down the streets, but there wasn’t anyone available to help.
Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell admitted the parade was canceled due to the department’s inability to adequately staff the event.
“Alternative routes and forms of having the event were offered that would not have required less staffing, but those alternatives were either not considered or were not agreeable to the organizers,” Powell said.
At Wednesday’s city council meeting, City Manager Kim Haws said they had a long meeting with Powell about the issue.
“This is an interesting dilemma because it requires city staff to volunteer, and that is the manning of public events on public rights-of-way such as parades, runs, walks, festivals and so forth,” Haws said. “It was an eye-opener for me in order to maintain public safety how many officers were required.”
Haws explained that when a group says they want to walk down High Street, that’s an extensive proposition with multiple intersections that have to be secured to ensure public safety.
“With that as a backdrop, there has been some hesitancy for some of our police officers to serve on that detail, and part of it is giving up their evenings and giving up holidays and things like that,” Haws said. “So, we’re working on some options that I think, in the end, will prove to be able to balance out what we can do with the department and use other resources to be able to manage.”
Butcher said the group was still going to go along as planned and march down High Street, just on the sidewalks instead of the street with floats and vehicles.
Morgantown Pride is working with vendors to try to get another parade date scheduled. Butcher said he also plans to try to sit down with the city manager and the police just to make sure there is an understanding that the parade will happen if rescheduled.
“We are not going to cancel it twice,” Butcher said.
The Morgantown Pride Block Party beginning at noon today at Ruby Hazel McQuain Park is still on with no plans of cancellation.
Powell said the block party does not pose the same type of safety concerns as the parade and can be monitored effectively with current staffing levels.