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Pride Toronto has no plans to backtrack on police parade ban

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jan 19th, 2017

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Pride Toronto say it has no plans to backtrack on a vote Tuesday night that would ban all police participation from this year’s parade at the request of Black Lives Matter (BLM).

“What we don’t want to see and what the community made very clear last night was no advertent police presence during the Pride parade…and it’s our responsibility to adhere to that,” Pride Toronto board member Sarah Cooper told CityNews on Wednesday.

Cooper added that “queer police officers and trans police officers can march under the banner of community groups,” but won’t be able to have their own floats or contingents at the annual event.

The Pride Annual General Meeting was meant to focus on electing five new board members and finances but an item was added to address the list of demands BLM presented during an interruption of last year’s parade.

A majority of Pride Toronto members voted in favour of the full list of demands, including the ban on police participation.

They also agreed to hire more people from vulnerable communities and provide more funding for events aimed at minority groups.

Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash admitted to being confused by what the vote actually means. But he says there’s no confusion when it comes to how police will handle their duties.

“Our job to protect public safety operates irrespective of the whims of a particular organization,” he told CityNews. “It’s our most important job and we are never going to compromise that.”

“We are very actively involved in building relationships, we’ve come a long way,” he added. “We still have a lot more to do, but we think inclusion is much more important than exclusion.”

Black Lives Matter organizer, Hashim Yussuf, said the vote sends a clear message.

“Obviously there’s mandatory police for security and things like that…but we just didn’t want police inside the parade itself,” he said. “We believe the police as an organization, as an institution, have been very homophobic and racist to the community members within Pride Toronto.”

When asked if the ban goes against the principle of inclusion that seems to be at the epicentre of Pride, Yussuf scoffed.

“Banning the police is not being exclusive at all. The police are exclusive towards many different minority communities.”

Social media teemed with negative reaction to Tuesday’s vote, criticizing Pride Toronto for ostensibly abandoning its philosophy of inclusion by banning police.

Some referenced an open letter from Toronto Const. Chuck Krangle, who is openly gay and decried any move to leave his employer out of the parade.

“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,” he wrote. “They too struggled to gain a place and workplace free from discrimination and bias.”

A petition on change.org is also asking that police be allowed to march and be present in uniform at the parade.

Mayor John Tory expressed his disappointment with the vote on Wednesday and said he’s hopeful a compromise can be reached.

“I hope they can find a way to respect the fact that police have made a positive contribution to improve relations and have been building bridges, and that’s a two-way street…”

“I hope (both sides) can sit down and resolve this issue in the coming weeks so that we can continue to build those bridges.”

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