VANCOUVER — Black Lives Matter Vancouver is asking police to voluntarily withdraw their float from the upcoming Pride Parade, as a "show of solidarity and understanding'' that officer involvement in the march creates an unsafe atmosphere for some communities.
The open letter published by the activist group on Friday comes weeks after its Toronto counterparts halted the city's parade until organizers signed off on a list of demands including banning police floats from future marches.
The Vancouver chapter said it stands with Black Lives Matter Toronto in its discontent with police marching in the parade.
While having police on the ground to perform a civil service is understandable, allowing officers to participate on a float is "insulting'' to protesters who made Pride celebrations possible, it said.
Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto sit and block the Pride Parade from the normal parade route. (Photo: Getty Images)
"We acknowledge that in certain contexts police presence to perform a job of civil service may deter acts of homophobia and violence, especially at designated queer events such as Pride,'' the letter said.
"However, we cannot divorce the policing institution from its historical and continued violence against Indigenous and (minority) communities, racial profiling, or inaction around our missing Indigenous women.''
Instead, the group proposes a public service float, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics and others, to replace the police-only float. The float would no longer represent an institution that has perpetuated "structural violence against Black and brown bodies in North America,'' it said.
Black Lives Matter won't march in Pride Parade
The Vancouver group said it will not take part in the Pride Parade on July 31, by participation or protest, as an act of solidarity with other Black Lives Matter chapters and because Pride no longer represents "community action, resistance and revolution.''
Instead, the chapter said it has accepted an invitation from the Dyke March to lead that parade as Grand Marshall.
Vancouver Police Sgt. Randy Fincham said the department was aware of the letter and would work with organizers, and all interest groups, to ensure that their concerns are addressed.
"We continue to work with all communities to build a more inclusive Vancouver, and protect the rights of all those who live, work and play in the city,'' he said in an email.
Mathieu Chantelois, Pride Toronto's executive director, signs in acceptance a list of demands from the Black Lives Matter Toronto movement as they staged a sit-in at the parade. (Photo: Getty Images)
No one from the Vancouver Pride Society was available for an interview on Friday evening, but the parade organizer issued a statement on Tuesday that said it was deeply committed to creating safer spaces for trans people, indigenous communities and people of colour.
The society said it would reach out to Black Lives Matter Vancouver after the events of the Toronto Pride Parade. At that time, Vancouver Pride Society said it hadn't received any requests to exclude police and would continue working with officers to educate and include them in appropriate ways.
"We will continue to encourage and support meaningful dialogue between police and all parts of our community,'' the society said.
Black Lives Matter Vancouver said in its open letter that the pride society had not directly contacted the group before issuing the statement, and urged it to turn its words into action.
In Toronto, parade organizers signed the protesters' list of demands but later told media they only did so to get the event moving again, and that none would be implemented without consultation.