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Amazons threaten boycott

Does Pride consider motorcycle contingent a series of two-wheeled floats?

Members of the Toronto Amazons lesbian motorcycle club, who have traditionally led the Pride Parade as part of the dykes on bikes contingent, say they won’t be participating in this year’s parade because of the new cleanup fees and because of alleged poor treatment by Pride officials. They will be taking part in the Dyke March on Sat, Jun 24.

“We don’t need this crap,” says Amazons president Sue Wells. “I wouldn’t pay 25 cents to go in this parade. I don’t think any of the Amazons will be at the parade.

“I, myself, on this very same motorcycle, have been leading the parade for the last 25 years. But having been in it for 25 years, it’s lost its lustre for me. It’s turned into a big tourist thing. If the parade is so expensive and so out of control, why don’t we scrap it and try something else?”

Wells says Amazons members are upset over the contradictory information they’ve received about fees and registration requirements.

“There was some kerfuffle over having to register, which we’ve never had to do before. They wanted your licence, your insurance, everything but the colour of my panties. Why do they need this information when they’ve never needed it before? Then the question of money came up.”

Wells says the group was first told they could pay $50 and register as a group, then that they would have to register as individuals and pay $50 each and later that they would have to pay $150 as a group.

“Now they’re saying you can pay $50 each, but the registration is over. We’re all like, ‘God, who cares?'”

Wells says the group also received a letter from Pride that she says they were later asked to shred. “It said that over the years, other people have been pissed off that they pay and we don’t.”

Amazons member Grace Pereira says she thinks Pride is just trying to squeeze money out of groups.

“I think it’s a cash grab. My mind went to greed. And why do they need all this information? You’re not going to tell me that someone’s going to go out and buy a $40,000 Harley-Davidson and not have a driver’s licence and insurance.

“Some individual members may participate, but my wife and I are boycotting.”

When asked about the Amazons’ complaints and other issues, Pride executive director Fatima Amarshi asked that all questions be e-mailed to her and to Pride’s cochairs, Natasha Garda and David Anderson.

“We are always concerned about our Pride Parade participants and their inclusion in Pride Week,” wrote cochairs Garda and Anderson via e-mail. “The Amazon Motorcycle Club is indeed participating in both the Dyke March and the Pride Parade this year and we’re excited to share Pride with them.”

Xtra also asked Pride organizers about how the cleanup fees are going to be spent. In a previous interview, Amarshi had said that the money is being charged for the costs of cleaning up after the parade.

But Barrie Chavel, the supervisor of street events for the City Of Toronto, says the city takes care of the parade cleanup and absorbs all costs.

“When it comes to the parade, the city has always cleaned up after, not just Pride, but all parades,” says Chavel.

He added, however, that Pride Toronto is responsible for cleaning up after the associated events on Church and Wellesley streets, including the concert stages, the beer tents and the booths.

Pride did not respond to questions about why parade participants are being asked to pay for cleaning up after events that they will not necessarily participate in, but did note that the individual fees are voluntary and that cleanup had been contracted out in order to spare volunteers.

“It is unfair to our volunteers and increasingly difficult to rely solely on the efforts of dedicated volunteers to clean the community’s streets until 6am in the morning after their regular shifts are over,” wrote Garda and Anderson. “Therefore, we contract out these services.”

When asked previously about how Pride would deal with individual participants who did not pay the $25, Amarshi did not answer directly, nor did she indicate that the charge was voluntary, referring only to Pride’s $15,000 bursary program, designed to defray costs for not-for-profit community groups with a budget under $100,000.

Asked why, with an estimated surplus of $350,000 accumulated from previous years, Pride was charging cleanup fees at all, Garda and Anderson did not dispute the figure, but referred only to last year’s surplus.

“In 2005, Pride Toronto had a surplus of approximately $41,000, which has been invested into the 2006 festival. Over the last several years, Pride Toronto has taken steps to ensure sound fiscal management that allows us to not only put on a great festival each year, but also ensures that Pride Toronto continues to host and coordinate a free-to-attend event.”