Toronto Police Have Officially Been Banned From Marching in the Gay Pride Parade
Pride Toronto members voted to endorse the demands made by Black Lives Matter Toronto.
Main photo via CP
Pride Toronto has voted to ban police from having any official presence at future parades, making good on a demand made by Black Lives Matter Toronto last year.
The decision was made at Pride Toronto's annual general meeting Tuesday, months after BLMTO staged a sit-in at last year's Toronto Pride Parade, presenting a list of eight demands including the removal of police floats in parades and marches, increased funding for Blockorama (a party for LGBT people of colour), space and funding for Queer Black Youth, a commitment to increase representation of black trans women and Indigenous people on staff, and a public town hall to discuss an action plan to meet these demands.
At the time, Pride agreed to the demands to get the parade moving and then rescinded, later apologizing to BLMTO.
"Once (the vote) was completed, it was just like joy," BLMTO co-founder Alexandria Williams told VICE. "I can't even explain how I feel that we asked Pride to do something and the community responded and we got our results."
Williams said people in the black LGBT community have suffered at the hands of cops.
"The glorification of police at Pride is just completely irresponsible and disrespectful to a community that has been heavily policed, heavily controlled, experienced an extreme amount of violence by this force."
The group has no issues with individual officers participating in Pride, but does not want a uniformed presence.
Police shootings of black men including Jermaine Carby and Andrew Loku, coupled by what many criticize as a shady oversight system in the Special Investigations Unit, and the practice of street checks (carding) that disproportionately targets people of colour, have fuelled racial tension amongst cops and the black community.
But Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, which represents officers, said the narrative that police and the black community have a bad relationship is false.
"I think it's in Black Lives Matters' own interest to perpetuate that story," he said, adding the majority of people feel safer around cops.
McCormack said his members are "offended" by Pride's decision.
"This definitely sends a message from the Pride community that police are not welcome."
He rejected the notion of officers marching in plain clothes as opposed to uniforms, saying that a police officer is a police officer regardless of what they're wearing.
It's very interesting that a group like the Pride organizers who talk about inclusivity would take a position that is about exclusivity."
McCormack said he doesn't think the decision is reflective of the community at large, and he believes police have built great relationships with LGBT people.
Tuesday's Pride meeting also saw several people of colour voted onto the organization's board, including BLMTO organizer Akio Maroon, Metis francophone Nicole Desnoyers, Elijah Monroe, a gay man from the Cayuga First Nations, and Kevin Rambally, a black queer social worker.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.