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Black Lives Matter Toronto Just Can't Avoid Bad Publicity

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There's that old saying that any publicity is good publicity. It gets your name out there in the public conversation, people who may not know who you are Googling you. You end up winning new fans or followers -- a new audience. We all want positive publicity, but there are benefits to bad publicity too.

For the Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter, most of what they do brings bad publicity. And not the good kind of bad publicity. The kind of bad publicity where you ask yourself who is running the show and if there is an adult in the room.

The BLM Community stemmed from problems in the U.S. Cops killings, increased incarcerations, inequality in schools and communities. Some people write it off saying "All Lives Matter." They don't understand that no one is saying "We're more important than you." They're saying "We are important, too."

From the main page of the Black Lives Matter website:

"Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks' contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression."

Now, let's talk about the Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter. There is no raising awareness and focus on issues that affect the black community here in Canada. If there were, then people such as myself could be aware of their plight. I could say, "Wow, good point there, guys!" I'd say "I never thought about how things affect the black community in Canada, thanks for opening my eyes."

But they seem more interested in causing chaos. They are tone deaf when it comes to realising that their actions do very little to help their cause. They are not starting the types of conversations that BLM in the U.S. have inspired. They seem to be more interested in making problems, not resolving them.

black lives matter toronto
Rally participants hold signs while marching on Bay Street. On the second anniversary of the death of Eric Garner during his attempted arrest by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo on Jul. 17, 2016. (Photo: Dude/Agency)

We know about their sit-in at last year's Pride Toronto parade. I can appreciate that being a minority and part of the LGBT community is a very difficult thing, and that Pride Toronto hasn't had the best relationship in the past recognising that. But to interfere in the parade seemed cheap and selfish. As per the CBC, The organisation was given the status of Honoured Group for the parade, which is the grand finale of Pride Month. It did not give Pride Toronto advance notice of their planned sit-in.

Earlier this year, they took the Pride Toronto board hostage. They made a list of demands like hostage takers and all of them were met. One was banning police floats from the parade and not allowing cops to march in uniform. The past history of Toronto police and the LGBT community has had its dark moments. But Google image search "Pride Toronto Police" and you will see where relations were up until now. You'll see officers dancing in the parade, in uniform, having as much fun as anyone else.

The asterisk that the police can be AT the event, but can't take part in the parade route in uniform is horrible. The decision got blasted by people across the country. People with family, friends, coworkers, classmates in the LGBT community were mind blown. Pockets of the LGBT community questioned why this battle was being waged. When you think of celebrations of inclusion, you think of Pride parades. People of all walks of life partying and embracing, coming together as one.

This decision has excluded people. People are now questioning who is running the show at Pride. BLMTO or the board and planning committee? Some have suggested they can have their own parade and dictate their own rules, banning whoever they want. They've brought down Pride Toronto's credibility and authority of their upper management. Sponsors of the festival now question if they are supporting inclusiveness or exclusion.

"Social justice should be about resolving issues that exist and preventing new ones from popping up."

This past weekend there was an Anti-Islamophobia rally in Toronto. All over the world, rallies took place after Donald Trump's ban on 7 Muslim countries. Yusra Khogali, a co-founder of the BLM chapter in the city called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a "white supremacist terrorist".

Say what you will about him, but he's one of the last world leaders embracing Muslims and refugees. That decision brings controversy, but he and the Liberals have dug in their heels. He made international headlines for welcoming all those affected by Trump's ban. He will probably win a Nobel Peace Prize as the face of Muslim immigration. Muslims have no better ally in the western world right now than Trudeau.

I'm not sure who is advising the Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter. Social justice should be about resolving issues that exist and preventing new ones from popping up. Regressive justice and the approach of BLMTO seems to be creating division. They're stepping on others and provoking controversy. Making such outlandish commentary and actions, they become their own worst enemy.

If they want to be accepted as a credible organization, they need a PR person. They need a buffer, to question consequences and ask if their messaging hurts them. Right now, they are collecting bad publicity after bad publicity. And not the good kind. The kind that makes people tune them out and roll their eyes. There's already a strong contingent of people in Canada who oppose immigration and minorities. Inspiring new enemies to join them is not helping their cause and only fuels up the other side with confirmation bias red meat.

In 20 years, will we be celebrating the legacy of the BLMTO movement during Black History Month? Or will we be looking at it as a drain on the community that caused more tension than bridge-building? They obviously have a knack for getting in the headlines and creating conversations. Let's just hope they can stay on message and get good publicity rather than bad.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog stated BLMTO could have asked to march in the Toronto Pride parade instead of holding it up, when they were in fact given the status of Honoured Group for the parade.

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