The Toronto Pride parade, held July 3, made headlines for two reasons. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau became the first sitting prime minister to ever attend a Pride parade, let alone the legendary Toronto Pride parade, and the parade was brought to a screeching halt for about a half an hour because of a sit-in by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Interestingly enough, Black Lives Matter was the guest of honor at the Toronto Pride parade this year. One of the first rules most people have been taught when invited to someone’s house is not to be a bad guest — don’t put your feet up on the furniture, tidy up any messes you make, and in general, be nice. If the same principles were to apply to the behavior of Black Lives Matter, the organization could be seen as one of the worst guests that Toronto Pride has seen.
— Stroumboulopoulos (@strombo) July 4, 2016
Toronto Pride has long been an event that has celebrated inclusiveness and diversity. People from every sector of society, regardless of race, have shown up to the event and celebrated being a part of the LGBTQ community. As a result of the Black Lives Matter sit-in at Toronto Pride, there are now gay police officers who are concerned that their first Toronto Pride parade will also be their last experience at the event.
According to The Toronto Star, Constable Chuck Krangle, who is openly gay, had his first opportunity to work Toronto Pride on Sunday, and he said it was an experience he wouldn’t soon forget.
“I had no idea that there were that many cops that march in this, from all different agencies,” he said, adding that he’d also had the opportunity to talk with and salute police chief Mark Saunders.
— CBC Toronto (@CBCToronto) July 3, 2016
Now, though, Krangle’s happiness at being a part of the event is marred by worry that he may not be participating again; among the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands on July 3 was a ban on future police participation in the Toronto Pride parade. The protest was apparently organized to protest what the group called the “anti-blackness” of Toronto Pride.
“Pride Toronto, we are calling you out! For your anti-blackness, your anti-indigeneity,” Alexandria Williams, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter in Toronto, bellowed into a microphone.
According to The Toronto Star, Black Lives Matter demanded, at least in part, that Toronto Pride increase funding and provide greater support for events like Blockorama, the Pride showcase for black performers; hire a greater number of black deaf and American Sign Language interpreters; hire more black trans women, indigenous people, and others who are part of vulnerable communities, and remove police floats from future Toronto Pride parades.
Toronto Pride executive director Mathieu Chantelois and board co-chair Alicia Hall read and signed the demands almost immediately, a move which Charlebois later said was simply to get the parade moving again. It was a move that Mike McCormack, president of the union that represents Toronto police officers, said was an insult to those who wore a police uniform.
“This is about the Pride parade, this is not about Black Lives Matter,” he noted, according to Globe and Mail.“We have been supporting this parade for years, long before politicians and other people. To suggest that police should be removed and not have a float or booths or be allowed in the community space – that’s complete and utter nonsense.”
Janaya Khan, spokesperson for Black Lives Matter, said that a police presence at Toronto Pride can make members of both the black and trans communities feel unsafe, which was why the ban was demanded.
“The question is, do police floats matter more than black lives?” she asked. “And we really need to start teasing out what it means when increased police presence means that many of the LGBTQ-identified community members feel less and less safe.”
Krangle argued that it is the visibility of officers at Toronto Pride that makes it such a powerful event, particularly for those who wear a uniform or those who might eventually want to.
“When I saw all those floats and officers marching (hundreds), I realized that my employer fully supports this part of me, and so many others like me,” he said.
Globe and Mail writer Margaret Wente suggested that perhaps Black Lives Matter should have reconsidered their timing, particularly given how close the Toronto Pride parade was to the tragic slaughter of 49 lives in Orlando, Florida, in the Pulse nightclub shooting in early June.
“You’d think, just weeks after the slaughter in Orlando, that they might have chosen to cede the spotlight to the dead and wounded, who really were under attack,” Wente wrote in her July 4 column. “But no. The Black Lives Matter activists are firmly convinced that they are at the very top of the pyramid of oppression.”
Toronto Pride says the list of demands was signed as a way to get the parade moving again, and it is certain that the coming weeks will see some discussion over the demands of Black Lives Matter.
(Photo by Ian Willms/Getty Images)