For many queer people in Toronto, the Night March is becoming an annual tradition that sets a political tone for the rest of Pride Week.
Hundreds of queer Torontonians and allies marched from Cawthra Park Square June 24, up Church Street to Carlton Street and then left onto Yonge. Marchers then followed Yonge Street up to Queen, where the group turned right, ending up at City Hall.
Marchers brought glitter, musical instruments, banners and signs with political messages, chanting, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous. Don’t fuck with us!” For many, the march is a chance to reject the corporatization of Pride and remind people that the festival is a grassroots political movement for queer liberation.
Head marshal and Queer Ontario member Casey Oraa says the march feels like a celebration.
“There’s an intimacy to this march,” he says. “We’re not regimented and divided off into groups. We have no permits. We all just take our messages to the streets and march together. People exercising our Charter rights. It’s beautiful and people really have a good time doing this.
“We are creating a celebratory politicized space and we look after one another. That’s positive, and I really enjoy that. It’s a diverse group of people taking up space.”
Oraa and his marshals stopped traffic at each intersection and brought the crowd through without incident.
The only moment of concern occurred at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard streets, when Toronto Police pushed marchers to the side to allow two police cruisers and an ambulance to go whizzing by.
This is the second year community members have organized a night march, which is not an official Pride Toronto event. Last year the march was organized by Queers for Social Justice, a group made up of a coalition of activist organizations, including Queer Ontario, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), AIDS Action Now and the Trans Lobby Group. That year, marchers took their cue from Pride’s theme, "Celebrate and Demonstrate," with the aim of putting politics front and centre during Pride Week. This year's Pride theme is "Superqueer."