A crowd gathered outside Pride Toronto on Berkeley Street Saturday to protest the organization’s decision to invite uniformed Toronto police officers to march in the 2019 parade.

Two years ago, Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) stopped the Toronto Pride march and presented its organizers with a list of demands, one of which was to stop uniformed police from being allowed to participate in the parade. They said having police march in the parade amounted to disregarding the brutality that the LGBTQ2S community has experienced at the hands of law enforcement.

Alfonso King, a DJ and performer known as DJ Relentless, addressed the crowd, many of whom clutched coffee cups with mittened hands. He spoke about his experience as a black, gay, HIV positive man in Toronto. He said that while he’s not an official member of BLMTO, he supports what they did in 2016.

King says that in 2016, Pride Toronto “invited Black Lives Matter for a photo opp. Once they [BLMTO] knew, they decided to protest and what they asked for was no uniform cops in the parade marching.”

“I’m tired of white gay men telling me how I should feel about pride,” said King.

He called for those who were opposed to BLMTO’s stance to “look outside of your own personal experiences.”

Pride Toronto’s board announced the decision to include police in the 2019 parade prior to the AGM, which many people viewed as an attempt to push the decision through without a community vote. (Nicole Edwards/Ryersonian)

Gary Kinsman was part of the committee that organized the first Pride march in Toronto in 1981. “We had about 1,500 people march from Grange Park,” he said. When the crowd reached the steps of Toronto police’s 52 Division, Kinsman says they were chanting, “Fuck you 52,” and were eventually asked by police to leave. While speaking about Pride Toronto’s recent decision he says the organization today seems like “something entirely different.”

Kinsman says that BLMTO’s 2016 protest recaptured the spirit of Stonewall, a reference to violent demonstrations in New York City in 1969 that followed police raids on the gay community.

Ashley Cooper, the woman who organized Saturday’s gathering, said that the ideal result of the protest would be for Pride Toronto to revoke its invitation to the police. “There may be a day when Toronto Police Services earn their place at our side, but it is not today.” she said. “And if they leave the invitation open to Toronto Police Services to participate next year, they leave the invitation open to resistance and we will see them in June.”

Click ‘play’ above to hear a segment of Ryersonian This Week from November 2, 2018. Produced and written by Nicole Edwards

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