by John Wilson
Well, Toronto Pride has done it again. On October 16 it held a news conference to announce that uniformed police will again march in the Pride parade. The decision was made solely by its Board, not presented to Pride’s membership for either discussion or vote. The news conference was a joint project with cop top boss Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory. In a video of the event published by Xtra, Pride Executive Director Olivia Nuamah consistently evaded detailed questions. She insisted that the decision was based on “community consultations” without ever specifying who comprised this “community” that was allegedly consulted. Since it didn’t even include Pride’s own membership, we may well wonder! Nuamah referred more than once to Pride’s “partnership” with the police.
Obviously, great pressure from the police, the mayor and Ontario Premier Thug Ford was brought to bear. But the rightward direction of the Pride leadership has been evident for years, as it continues to distance itself from the “community” it supposedly represents. In 2016, when Black Lives Matter temporarily halted the march to protest the massive police presence in it and to highlight other serious issues, one of the major concerns was the intimidating nature of the police presence, particularly to marginalized sectors in the LGBT population in the parade. This important issue has been shoved aside in the interest of “partnership” with the mechanism of state repression, and, presumably, funding. (To quote an old Bob Dylan song: “money doesn’t talk, it screams”.)
This outrageous betrayal completely ignores the role of the police as the praetorian guard of power and privilege and as an oppressor of queer people, racialized minorities, sex workers and the homeless. (It also undercuts other Pride organizations which have removed the police from their parades.) As James Dubro, a long-time gay activist points out, the announcement of this change was made without notice, and predicts that “they’re setting it up for major confrontation”. And he’s right. Opposition is already growing and it will be massive.
Apparently, Toronto Pride honchos are completely oblivious to the growing resistance to the viciously right wing Doug Ford-led Ontario government, resistance which will dovetail with opposition to their abjectly opportunist move.
As the slogan heading up a petition started by queer activist and Queer Ontario steering committee member Brian de Matos declares, “Liberation, Not Assimilation.”