Toronto Pride organizers are denying that they agreed to exclude police from marching in future parades—a demand made by Black Lives Matter Toronto during a controversial protest Sunday.
BLMTO, an Honoured Group marching in the parade, staged a 30-minute sit-in Sunday while making a list of demands relating to future Pride events. One of them was the "removal of all police floats/booths in all Pride marches/parades/community spaces."
Mathieu Chantelois, executive director of Pride Toronto, met with BLMTO and, according to the group, signed a document agreeing to all of the demands. Afterward BMLTO tweeted "We shut it down. We won."
But on Monday, Chantelois told CP24 he didn't agree to everything on the list, only to have a conversation about the demands.
"Frankly, Black Lives Matter is not going to tell us that there is no more floats anymore in the parade. I will not tell you that there is no more floats in the parade because Pride is bigger than Black Lives Matter. It is definitely bigger than me and my committee. That is the kind of decision that needs to be made by the community," Chantelois said.
Janaya Khan, a co-founder of BLMTO, told CBC's Metro Morning that Toronto police have a long history of "anti-black racism," pointing specifically to carding and an increased police presence in marginalized communities.
"This has brought attention to who feels safe with police around....and the reality is Indigenous and black people, two-spirit people and our LGBT community who are racialized, we don't feel safe with the police around."
On Monday morning, Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack, told VICE asking for cops to be left out of Pride is "absolutely ridiculous" and questioned why the parade's organizers would agree to such a request.
"First of all the Pride parade is supposed to be about community inclusiveness, everybody getting together, rejoicing, all this positive stuff and then we've got Black Lives Matter who hijacked the parade, and extorted an agreement," he said. "For the organizers to have a brain fart to sign a document like this, come on. What message does that send to not only our police officers, but also our police officers who are part of that community."
McCormack, who isn't exactly known for using tact when defending police officers, then speculated Pride organizers might have been tipped off about the protest in advance.
"I'm wondering why somebody would sign a document unless they already knew what was in it," he said. "We think the organizers owe us a retraction or an apology."
Following the protest, gay Toronto police officer Const. Chuck Krangle wrote a letter to Pride Toronto in which he said seeing fellow officers march in the parade made him feel supported by his peers.
"Police officers are significantly represented in the LGBTQ community and it would be unacceptable to alienate and discriminate against them and those who support them. They too struggled to gain a place and workplace free from discrimination and bias," Krangle wrote.
BLMTO tweeted that "over the years, Pride has threatened the existence of Black spaces at Pride" such as the "near extinction" of the Black Queer Youth stage, which it successfully secured funding for through Sunday's protest.
The group also said Toronto police "are using Pride in an attempt to erase their racism problem" at the expense of racialized members of the LGBT community.
Toronto police recently apologized for the 1981 bathhouse raids, during which hundreds of gay men in the city were humiliated and arrested.
BLMTO has not yet responded to request for comment.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.