It was a familiar sight: marchers, dressed in black, holding protest signs and winged by coloured smoke. Once again, they chanted the slogan that’s become an international call to arms against police violence: “Black lives matter.”
But this year, Black Lives Matter Toronto didn’t hold a sit-in at the corner of Yonge and College streets; instead it tried to send a reminder.
“May we never again need to remind you that we, too, are queer,” read one sign.
“May we never again have to remind you that we shut it down for ALL OF US,” read another.
“Behind the glitter, behind the sparkle; anti-black racism still exists,” BLMTO co-founder Rodney Diverlus told reporters after the parade. “It exists at Pride, it exists in our queer and trans spaces and we’re here to challenge it.”
“We are here. This is our community as well. Pride is actually ours. Queer and trans people of colour actually started this,” Diverlus said.
Last year’s Black Lives Matter protest at Toronto Pride is still reverberating in Toronto and elsewhere. Their list of demands included the exclusion of any police floats in future parades, more diversity in staffing, the return of a South Asian stage, a commitment for more black ASL interpreters and increased funding, support and autonomy for Black Queer Youth, Blockorama and other community spaces at Pride.
BLMTO’s demands were later adopted by an overwhelming margin by Pride Toronto’s membership. And despite an attempt by some Toronto city councillors to defund the parade, no uniformed police marched this year.
Over the last year, police involvement in Pride has become a contentious issue in Halifax, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and other Canadian cities. In Phoenix and Washington, Pride parades were disrupted by protesters.
On the same day as this year’s Pride parade in Toronto, BLM protesters in Minneapolis brought that parade to a stop, demanding that police be removed.