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Support for Black Lives Matter sprinkled through Vancouver Pride parade

Justin Trudeau brought his family to march in Pride

Marchers with the Qmunity contingent from BC’s queer resource centre celebrate being their truest selves at the Vancouver Pride parade, July 31, 2016. Credit: Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra

Overcast skies gave way to sunny days at the 38th annual Vancouver Pride parade, though the estimated hundreds of thousands of onlookers were ready to party — and cheer on the prime minister — regardless of the weather.

In the staging area, Lisa Salazar is preparing to march alongside PFLAG. This parade holds a personal significance for Salazar, who is celebrating the political victories won by the trans community this year.

Trans activist Morgane Oger, left, seated next to trans pioneer Kimberly Nixon, helped lead the parade this year as one of four grand marshals. (Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra)

“What we celebrate today is standing on the shoulders of people who fought very hard, and who experienced a lot of very painful rejection, discrimination and even violence, and yet they were trailblazers,” Salazar explains. “For me, Pride is paying homage to all those individuals who came before us and made it possible for us to live authentically as we are.”

Cody Ashby came from a religious community in Utah to enjoy Vancouver Pride. (Hannah Ackeral/Daily Xtra)

One teenager in the crowd, Cody Ashby, travelled from Utah to attend the festivities. He says the atmosphere is a stark contrast to what he’s experienced at home.

“It’s so much fun, I love it,” he says, cheering alongside friends he met online. “Where I live, it’s a really religious community so the gay community can’t really be as loud as it is here. Pride means being proud of who you are, really. It’s pride itself and not caring what other people think of you and just living life how you should live it.”

 (Dave Mac/Daily Xtra)

Also in the crowd is Anne Barley, standing with her arms around her partner as they take in the spectacle.

“It’s my community — it’s been my community for 40 years, so it means a lot,” she says. “It feels good. It feels like you’re safe and you’re celebrating. It was small before, but now it’s huge. When you start seeing Trudeau walking down the street you think, holy crap, look at what it’s become.”

The Last Door Recovery Society, for clean, proud and sober people, outdoes itself once again with its annual float. (Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra)

Justin Trudeau made history this year as the first sitting prime minister to walk in the Vancouver Pride parade, though he’s attended several times in the past.

Justin Trudeau makes history as Canada’s first sitting prime minister to walk in Vancouver Pride. (Dave Mac/Daily Xtra)

“It’s a time where the whole city, families and communities, come out, and we celebrate the great diversity that is such a strength to our country,” he says of the parade.

Trudeau brought his own family along, and together the five of them led the parade’s most popular marching contingent (as his youngest child slept in a stroller).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his three children and his wife Sophie, joined Mayor Gregor Robertson to march in Vancouver’s Pride parade. (Dave Mac/Daily Xtra)

Also walking with Trudeau was Ted Littlemore, better known as by his stage name Mila Dramatic, winner of Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2016. He knows how transformative Pride can be.

“The first time I came to Pride was the first time I didn’t feel like an outsider,” he says.

(Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra)

“I have an uncle who just came out at age 60 and he’s so overwhelmed this weekend because he feels like he’s among his people, and that is why Pride is special,” Dramatic adds.

Volunteers carried tributes to the 49 people killed in the June shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. (Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra)

Interspersed throughout the parade were flags with posters bearing the names and faces of the victims of the June shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Matix Etman, who marched with TD, says the tragedy in Orlando is what pushed him to participate this year.

Matix Etman says the shooting in Orlando moved him to march this year in Pride. (Hannah Ackeral/Daily Xtra)

“Normally I just watch from the side,” he says. “I wanted to show my support and be in that group — show my excitement, and how much I love this community.”

Watch our Facebook live video of the entire Pride parade, hosted by Peach Cobblah and Isolde N Barron, above, with their grand finale below. (Angelina Cantada/Daily Xtra)

Some groups, such as Salaam Vancouver for queer Muslims, and the queer South Asian group Trikone, opted not to participate in the parade this year in solidarity with the Vancouver chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Salaam, Trikone and the 2sqtibipoc Alliance will instead put their energy towards hosting a Pride march on Aug 1, 2016 for two-spirit, queers, trans, intersex and bi people of colour.

After the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter held a sit-in at Toronto Pride to demand more genuine inclusion of black, indigenous and non-white LGBT people and the removal of police floats from the parade there, the Vancouver chapter asked local police to voluntarily withdraw their marching contingents from the parade here too.

Though Black Lives Matter decided not to participate in this year’s Pride parade, several people carried signs or wore t-shirts expressing their support. (Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra)

“The Pride Parade stems from the Stonewall Riots of 1969, led by trans and queer PoCs [people of colour] against police raids on the establishment,” BLM-Vancouver wrote in an open letter to police and the Vancouver Pride Society on July 15, 2016.

“Police raids on bathhouses were commonplace in Toronto until 1981 and the ensuing riots were the roots of Toronto’s own Parade,” the letter notes.

Some members of this year’s Vancouver Police Department contingent marched in blue t-shirts with the police crest emblazoned on a rainbow heart, rather than in uniform. (Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra)

“Therefore, we understand and support BLM-Toronto’s reluctance towards having the police force, as it exists as an institution, involved as a prominent fixture in the parade. Having the Vancouver Police Department on the ground to perform a civil service is understandable. Having the institution participate on a float in the organized festivities of the actual parade is inappropriate and insulting to those who came before us to make Pride celebrations possible, some of who even died for the cause,” BLM-Vancouver wrote.

Though the Vancouver Police Department did not bring its armoured truck to the parade this year, its road safety bus was part of the transit police contingent in the parade. (Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra)

Though the Vancouver Police Department agreed to remove its armoured vehicle and released a statement saying it is committed to working with BLM, it still sent a contingent to march in the parade, as did the transit police and the RCMP.

This year’s Vancouver Pride parade lasted just over three hours.

(Ross Johnson/Daily Xtra)