More than 300 people marched in the Pride Coalition for Free Speech contingent in the 2010 Toronto Pride parade on July 4. The group was spawned after Pride Toronto unsuccessfully attempted the ban a phrase Israeli apartheid from the event.
It was not business as usual at Toronto Pride this year.
Pride Toronto (PT) expanded the weekend events to include a stage at Queen’s Park. Meanwhile, lesbians organized a no-permits, no-spectators alternative to the PT Dyke March. And controversy over two attempts by PT leadership to ban the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) resulted in one of the most lively, politically-engaged Pride parades in recent memory.
Pride Week, which ran June 25-July 4, included upwards of 100 official and unofficial events, all leading up to the Pride parade, which — partly thanks to clear skies — was well attended by spectators. It was also broadcast live to an audience of some 1.3 million people, according to CTV.
The parade was led by grand marshals Mandy Goodhandy and Todd Klinck, owners of Toronto sex club Goodhandy’s. Their contingent included sex workers, porn stars and burlesque troupes.
“We’re bringing all those wonderful people… who represent diversity and show that we all belong,” Goodhandy told Xtra during the Parade.
When asked what message they had for audiences, Klinck was unequivocal.
“Decriminalize sex work now,” he said.
Meanwhile, fears that QuAIA or its critics could incite violence or otherwise disrupt the celebration were unfounded.
Near the back of the parade, QuAIA members shouted chants such as, “Viva, viva, Palestina.” Before the parade, as they waited in the staging area, they were heckled by several groups sporting Israeli flags.
QuAIA member Tim McCaskell helped organize safety marshals for the contingent.
“Our tone is one of celebration,” he said. “We told everybody not to engage with anyone who’s heckling or trying to provoke stuff.”
McCaskell and others quietly shepherded anti-QuAIA protesters away, asking them to return to the staging area for the gay Jewish community group Kulanu.
Of particular concern for McCaskell was the Jewish Defence League (JDL). A small group of middle aged men showed up at the QuAIA staging area wearing black JDL T-shirts.
“They’ve got a very bad reputation: a lot of straight boys with too much testosterone,” said McCaskell.
But most people opposed to QuAIA stayed a respectful distance away, and mostly marched in the Kulanu contingent.
“Why can’t they just leave our Gay Pride Parade for gay rights issues, and scream their horrible stuff– which they have a right to say – just a block away?” Kulanu spokesperson Paul Druzin asked Xtra in the staging area. “Scream it tomorrow, scream it on Parliament Hill, just don’t ruin Gay Pride for us gay people.“
A day earlier, PT rolled out a modest Dyke March, a smaller affair than in previous years. Meanwhile, a group of volunteers organized the 1,000-person strong Take Back The Dyke, a no-permits, no-spectators protest. Musician Faith Nolan led chants and songs.
“There ain’t no power but the power of the dykes. The dykes don’t stop,” she said.
Take Back the Dyke was organized in protest of PT’s decision to ban use of the term “Israeli apartheid” at Pride events.
Pride rescinded the ban on June 23, but Take Back the Dyke still went ahead. On the event’s Facebook page, organizers explained their decision.
“We applaud the hard work of our community’s activists who pressured Pride Toronto to rescind the ban. But let’s be clear: Pride’s reversal should not make us come running back into the arms of this abusive relationship, forgiving and forgetting.”