Police Chief Mark Saunders has acceded to demands from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter and agreed that the force will not participate in this year’s gay pride parade.
In his explanation, Saunders referred to divisions within the LGBTQ organizers of the multi-million dollar event.
“We understand the LGBTQ communities are divided,” he said in a statement. “To enable those differences to be addressed, I have decided the Toronto Police Service will not participate, this year, in the Pride parade.
Those divisions center on objections from Toronto’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists who want to minimize the presence of their sworn police enemies.
Last year’s parade made more news than usual after BLM protested the presence of police and temporarily halted the event. It only resumed after the executive director of “Pride Toronto,” Matthieu Chantelois, agreed to BLM demands that included a future ban on police floats.
Chantelois later claimed that he only signed the document to stop the protest.
Then in January at their annual meeting, Pride Toronto members voted in favor of the BLM edict, with no one saying for certain whether that included police officers as well as floats.
The absence of police in the parade still leaves BLM feeling unsatisfied.
“They are trying to flip the narrative and make it seem as if they are choosing to pull out of Pride when in fact they were uninvited,” said spokesperson Syrus Marcus Ware.
Ware said the police chief failed to mention such issues as “anti-blackness and policing” and carding — a standard practice of patrolling dangerous sections of town — that BLM insists is aimed a non-whites.
On Friday, Pride Toronto suggested the police force’s decision not to participate in the parade was a positive development.
“Pride Toronto is committed to continuing the important dialogue that has taken place with our membership and the broader community. We are listening. We will listen. What we have seen from the Toronto Police Service is that they are also listening,” the organization said in a statement.
A former Conservative member of the Ontario legislature, Phil Gillies, told the Toronto Sun Saturday that the decision by police chief was “very unfortunate. I can understand the police being upset after the decision that was taken at the Pride annual meeting. However, I think it’s unfortunate. We need our police to be involved with the community.”