Pride Marches for an End to Police Brutality

by Corey David

On July 26 Toronto Socialist Action participated in the Abolitionist Pride March. Supporters gathered at the south-east corner of Toronto City Hall Square. By 11 a.m. more than 500 people had assembled and occupied Queen Street, at Bay Street, holding banners and placards that called for the disarmament and abolition of the police. 

Several Indigenous and No Pride in Policing Coalition members addressed the crowd.  They denounced the Toronto Dominion bank, situated nearby, for its rainbow-washing practices.  While TD plasters Pride Week with its logo, it participates in environmental destruction, exploiting the housing crisis, and backing homophobic institutions. Toronto City Council was decried for its attempt to erase the history of the city’s repression of the LGBTQI community.

Protesters marched to the US Consulate chanting “No more shit”, “No justice no peace” and “Whose streets?”, calling out the prejudicial system and how the state in both Canada and the USA still promotes laws and culture that aim to repress the community. A Palestinian activist linked the struggle against police and the incarceral state everywhere, and reported that people around the world are engaged in this struggle. 

At the University and Dundas intersection, a block from Police 52 Division Station, the crowd chanted “Fuck you 52” and “Defund, Disarm, Dismantle, Abolish”.  They recalled how the cops led the historic bath house raids and harassment in the gay village and across the downtown area.  Speakers from the No Pride in Policing Coalition also addressed the latest encampment clearings, including the police raid on June 24 that saw a local resident arrested on dismissed charges and driven halfway to Quebec before being dropped off back at his tent. As we marched, the sound system on a flatbed truck pumped out dance music.  The mood was quite joyous between stops, but took on a sombre tone when speakers took the mic. Newly elected OPSEU President JP Hornick sent a statement that was read on her behalf.  She endured a police raid and she organized the community to confront city officials, helping to put an end eventually to the violent police practice.

At Queen’s Park, Butterfly spoke about sex workers and migrants who are targeted by laws and systems that treat them like criminals, even when they are the recognized victims.  A recent Newmarket City Council bylaw demands sex workers keep their doors unlocked for inspectors, ignoring the danger of violence or theft. Toronto Pride was called out for hosting Premier Ford despite his support for individuals and institutions that promote harm against the LGBTQI and BIPOC communities. 

A speaker for the abolitionists spoke about the need to get rid of police and the prison system — asserting that we have the power to manage ourselves, protect ourselves without the naked violence and dehumanization that our “justice” system visits upon minorities and the poor. 

As we came to the final stop at Toronto Police HQ we were blocked by a few cop cars. Then we were flanked by cops in every direction.  They would not let us pass, but when they tried to move their vehicle, we blocked it. An Indigenous speaker asked us to see the humanity in each other and not act out of hate, but out of love. The mother of Regis Kuchinski, a Black/Indigenous woman who died as a result of the forceful police response of 12 officers alone with her in her Parkdale apartment during a mental health crisis, spoke about the need to get involved. Journalist Desmond Cole spoke last and talked about how the cops are bullies and killers working to uphold the state of the rich, and that he was proud to stand with those who put their bodies on the line to protect each other in the face of police violence and economic injustice. He said Mayor John Tory should be booted out of office; he demanded that city councilors take a stand against the police. 

The March ended peacefully at 3 p.m.  It was anti-capitalist, called out the opportunists who collaborate with oppressors, and unapologetically demanded abolition of the police. Socialist Action regards this as a transitional demand designed to educate and organize the working class towards the democratic transformation of society, for the establishment of workers’ power, and an end to racism, sexism, homophobia and trans-phobia, once and for all.