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Black Lives Matter Protest Proves Pride Needs More Empathy, Less Prejudice

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Members of Black Lives Matter argue their case with the public who wanted the Pride Parade to go on. Photo by Roberto Machado Noa, Getty.

Toronto's Pride Parade on Sunday was an historic success. An estimated million revellers were joined by, for the first time, a sitting prime minister as photos of a grinning, rainbow Canadian flag-waving Justin Trudeau conveyed the message that Canada is officially inclusive.

Officially, perhaps, but not always actually.

That became clear at the outraged reaction, in person, on social media and in old-timey media, to the sit-in by Black Lives Matter Toronto, a protest that lasted about 25 minutes after which their demands were met by Pride Toronto organizers and the parade progressed.

Twenty-five minutes is about the length of time we wait through commercials and trailers for a movie to start. Twenty-five minutes is how long it should have taken my six-year-old son and I to get to the Pride Parade from Parkdale rather than the hour-and-a-half that it actually took.


Waiting twenty-five minutes is not suffering or being taken hostage. Claiming this during a protest by a community that has suffered greatly over the years, including being disproportionately carded and killed by police, is as insulting as it is ironic.

While white LGBT communities may have moved on, LGBT people of colour are still facing policing issues on a daily basis.

Also ironic? Complaints about a Black Lives Matter sit-in when they were the parade's "Honoured Group" because of their history of direct action and police protests. A subsequent City TV poll found that 84 per cent of people said "Yes, it detracted from the overall Pride parade theme."

This year's theme, of course, was the inclusivity-promoting "You Can Sit With Us." So they sat.

black lives matter toronto pride protest

Members of Black Lives Matter sit and block the Pride Parade. Photo by Roberto Machado Noa, Getty.

And while sitting they presented specific demands to turn that thematic theory into promised practice. So they demanded more inclusive hiring, especially black trans women, indigenous folk and other vulnerable people, and they demanded more financial and community space support for Pride events run by and for black and brown LGBT communities.

And yes, they demanded that police floats be kept out of future Pride parades.

That final demand has inspired the most outrage, and Pride Toronto now claiming they only agreed to a future conversation about the police presence.

"Frankly, Black Lives Matter is not going to tell us that there is no more floats anymore in the parade. I will not tell you that there is no more floats in the parade because Pride is bigger than Black Lives Matter. It is definitely bigger than me and my committee. That is the kind of decision that needs to be made by the community," Pride Toronto's executive director Mathieu Chantelois told CP24 on Monday.

But here's some context for people who say Pride should just be a celebration and not a police protest.

The first Pride ever was a protest against police brutality after New York's Stonewall Inn was raided in 1969. Toronto staged a subsequent anti-police protest in 1981 when thousands took to the streets following the infamous bathhouse raids, an act that police only just apologized for last month. Though there had been small events in the 70s, this protest led to Toronto's modern-day Pride movement.

(The Toronto Women's Bathhouse Committee, the group whose queer woman's event Pussy Palace was subsequently raided by male officers in 2000, rejected the apology. In a June 24 Globe & Mail interview, ex-committee member Chanelle Gallant said, "it is well-intentioned and speaks to an improved relationship between some members of the LGBTQ and police [but] it leaves out the criminalization and violent targeting of racialized, indigenous and marginalized groups within and outside of LGBTQ communities. An apology is meaningless without concrete actions attached and the demands of Black Lives Matter are the best starting point.")

So while some white LGBT community members may have moved on, LGBT people of colour are still facing policing issues on a daily basis and the sight of uniformed police on parade floats may have made them feel uncomfortable.

The most notable thing to me... about the BLM backlash is the lack of concern for more marginalized members of the community.

Const. Chuck Krangle​, a gay cop, wrote an open-letter to Pride organizers about BLM's demands.

His hurt feelings are legitimate, of course, though he also noted "I do not speak for the police, and I do not speak for the LGBTQ community. I speak as an individual, one who saw his first Pride, only to be excluded from the next." Nobody said he couldn't come next year as an individual, the demand was about uniformed cops on official floats.

He also did not in any way discuss why BLM may be opposed to police floats or reforms that might improve community relations, and even made a point of saying "I have never been made to feel discriminated against."

That's great for him, but he also admits the struggles of people before him made that possible. What he does not admit is that other people who aren't white gay men may not be so fortunate when it comes to avoiding discrimination.

The most notable thing to me, just a straight, white ally, about the BLM backlash is the lack of concern for more marginalized members of the community. It can obviously be tough being a white gay man and even tougher being a white lesbian but what about queer and trans minorities who are facing a host of intersecting prejudices, even from their Pride compatriots?

"I didn't think the Pride parade was a venue to launch one's concerns," gay conservative Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy said on News 1010 on Monday morning, following up an anti-BLM article that might as well have had "uppity" in the headline.

"Black Lives Matter, rightly or wrongly, were the honoured group at pride, and I felt like they disrespected that," she said. "It was about gay rights, not black rights. Gay rights."

But the members of BLM: Toronto are fighting for both, and that's what this brouhaha boils down to. The LGBT equality movement has been better for white people than it has been for people of colour because some folks are discriminated for more than just being LGBT.

black lives matter toronto

Members of Black Lives Matter movement halted the parade to demand more justice and equality. Photo by Roberto Machado Noa, Getty.



"It's always the appropriate time to make sure folks know about the marginalization of black people, of black queer youth, black trans youth, of black trans people," BLM: Toronto co-founder Alexandra Williams told CBC.

LGBT rights have progressed because of protest and people who have benefited from those actions should look beyond themselves and consider the struggles of those still fighting because Pride is, always has been and always will be, political.

"We are not taking any space away from any folks. When we talk about homophobia, transphobia, we go through that too... It should be a cohesive unit, not one against the other. Anti-blackness needs to be addressed and they can be addressed at the same time, in the same spaces."

So instead of griping about a 25-minute delay, or complaining when people bring up issues that don't personally affect you, how about adding a little empathy to your pride instead of prejudice?

LGBT rights have progressed because of protest and people who have benefited from those actions should look beyond themselves and consider the struggles of those still fighting because Pride is, always has been and always will be, political.

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