On Sunday, Black Lives Matter protesters halted Toronto’s pride parade for a full half an hour in the middle of the celebration. Only after a list of demands were met did the protestors clear the road and allow the parade to continue on. Black Lives Matter was marching in the parade as Pride’s honored group of 2016, so it isn’t a situation where the parade was taken over out of nowhere. As an honored group, BLM was being specifically noted for their activism involving police brutality. A Canadian LGBT publication even named them Toronto’s most effective LGBT movement this year.
Apparently, according to BuzzFeed, Black Lives Matter began to think of ways to use the Toronto Pride Parade as a platform shortly after being given the honored group designation. As we now know, their preparation paid off. After speaking with black LGBT groups in the area and hearing about major issues with funding and being acknowledged by Pride at the same level as other groups, BLM decided to take action and raise awareness of these issues. Their demands included increased visibility for diverse groups such as Black Queer Youth, a raise in funding to those groups and similar organizations, additional community stages, and a town hall to be held in the future in order to assess the progress of these demands.
One demand on the list that some find especially controversial is the request that Pride bans all police floats and booths from future parades and celebrations in order to make all attendees, especially black LGBT marchers, feel more safe at Pride. While Black Lives Matter is holding Toronto Pride accountable for a signed document that was agreed upon in order to get the parade moving again, the head of Toronto Pride is now backtracking on some demands, especially those that involve banning police participation.
Both the union and Pride are now standing up for the rights of police officers to march just as any other organization can, but both also agree that discussions will happen so any and all discomfort is addressed. One out police officer even wrote a letter asserting that “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.”
The spokeswoman of this Black Lives Matter branch, LeRoi Newbold, said they protested at the Pride parade because “Pride does have roots that are political, so we wanted to bring it back to that place,” citing Stonewall and the origins of the Pride movement. Political protests don’t always resolve themselves easily, but a willingness to discuss these demands is more than a promising start by both sides in the communication process.