Dani Lee Harris, a police officer and controversial pick as a Pride parade grand marshal, wore her uniform on Sunday and joined a handful of openly LGBT officers from the Atlanta Police Department in the annual parade.
Harris (top photo) rode in full uniform with her 10-year-old son and other family members in a red convertible under the watchful eye of a security detail from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Her selection as a grand marshal was greeted with some controversy as it came in the wake of the Atlanta Police Department’s Sept. 10 raid at the Eagle.
Harris was selected as a grand marshal by the Atlanta Pride Committee prior to the raid, although the selection wasn’t publicly announced until 10 days after the raid.
The selection was criticized and some people, including Eagle co-owner Robert Kelley, urged Harris to not wear her uniform during the parade. Harris is the police department’s LGBT liaison, but had no role in the bar raid.
She initially agreed to not wear the uniform, but reversed course in a “last-minute decision” after talking with other gay officers and her family. A security detail was added to Harris after the police agency grew concerned about her safety.
“It was a hard decision because I was going to stand by my decision not to wear my uniform,” Harris said Sunday prior to the start of the parade. “Understanding that, yes, they are honoring me as a person but they would have never honored me as a person without being in my position as the liaison to be the voice out in the community. It was bittersweet. Because of that I felt like after listening to them, they are out here in full uniform and I need to be out here supporting them in what they do to support me. It was really a mutual respect thing.”
Harris joined a handful of other LGBT officers in the parade, including Major Renee Propes and Detective Michael Graham. All three officers spoke during a public forum last month about the raid and its aftermath. The gay officers and others who patrolled during the event seemed generally well received by the throngs of people watching the parade. Officers also took part in other events during Pride, including MEGA Family Project’s Halloween Party (photo).
Harris said she used the controversy over her grand marshal selection as a teachable moment for her son.
“It is always good to not shelter your children from negative. You want to give them all the positive but the world’s just not like that. I had to sit him down and educate him on the negative and what this whole thing is all about. After talking to him, he was like ma, I’m proud of you so don’t worry about what people say. It was interesting to have him give me my lessons back,” Harris said.
View the Project Q Atlanta photo album of police officers at the Atlanta Pride Parade.
Halloween photo courtesy MEGA Family Project