Cops banned from marching in uniform in Toronto head to NYC Pride March
Published Saturday, June 24, 2017 9:41AM EDT Last Updated Saturday, June 24, 2017 11:25PM EDT
A group of Toronto police officers who are barred from marching in the city’s Pride Parade in uniform this weekend are in New York City to instead walk alongside NYPD officers in that city’s pride march.
A contingent of about 100 people, which includes Toronto police officers, civilian employees with the TPS, some correctional officers and officers from other police forces across southern Ontario, arrived in the Big Apple to participate in pride festivities there following Pride Toronto’s decision to ban uniformed officers from this weekend’s parade along Yonge Street.
The trip was organized after the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) of New York extended an invitation to Toronto police officers in May.
In January, the membership of Pride Toronto voted to ban uniformed officers from this year’s parade in the wake of a protest from members of Black Lives Matter- Toronto that briefly halted the event last year.
“We are delighted and overwhelmed by the support in New York City and that New York was able to get it right,” Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack told CP24 on Saturday morning, as he got ready to board a flight to New York. “Our wish and our hope is that Toronto organizers get it right next year.”
However not everyone in New York is greeting the Toronto contingent with open arms. Spekaing with CP24 Saturday in New York, a local Black Lives Matter organizer said the participation of uniformed officers who have been banned from another Pride ceremony amounts to a “slap in the face” for black communities.
“If you’re talking about diversity and inclusion, let’s think of the people who are enforcing these policies that are explosive, that are racially biased – it’s the police,” said BLM of Greater New York’s Hawke Newsom.
However McCormack said that while there are police issues that need work, excluding one group from the parade puts “a bigger wedge” between communities.
Police Chief Mark Saunders has said that it is important that the TPS takes a step back from its formal participation in the Toronto Pride Parade this year in order to allow important conversations to take place.
McCormack, however, told CP24 on Saturday that the decision to ban officers from wearing their uniform in the parade is an “insult” to his members.
“It is an insult to the people here who have been working so hard to say that there has been no inroads and that this relationship is fractured,” he said
For her part, the executive director of Pride Toronto has previously said that the ban on uniformed police at this year’s pride parade is not necessarily a permanent one.
"We are utterly welcoming to LGBTQ+ members of the police service and their allies. But what we are asking this year is that they not wear their uniform, that they not bring all the aspects of their uniform until we are able to have conversations with those parts of our community that feel that this is not appropriate to what they would like to celebrate in a parade,” Olivia Nuamah said in May.
Though McCormack has described the ban on uniformed officers as a “step backwards” away from inclusion, members of Black Lives Matter – Toronto have contended that the presence of uniformed and armed cops at the parade doesn’t feel inclusive for some members of the black community who have had negative experiences with police.
The group has also said that until the TPS addresses concerns around carding, police brutality and “anti-black racism,” uniformed officers shouldn’t be welcome at the parade.
“I think this shows that they haven’t actually been listening to the community. The community for the last year have been talking about the ways police need to be accountable and instead of actually acknowledging that and actually putting step forwards to address anti blackness they are actually just acting like high schoolers who didn’t get the invite to the party,” Black Lives Matter – Toronto co-founder Rodney Diverlus told CP24 on Saturday afternoon. “I think it is quite petty. There are more serious issues that need to be dealt with.”
Diverlus said that for his group to even consider supporting the return of uniformed officers to the pride parade, the Toronto Police Service would first have to “acknowledge that yes anti-black racism does exist.”
“They haven’t even gotten there yet. Police need to acknowledge that and actually show the community and show black queer folks that they are making the commitment to actually do this work,” he said. “They haven’t. It has been a whole year of just complaining.”
In September, Pride Toronto issued a wide-ranging statement in which it apologized for its “history of anti-blackness'' and "repeated marginalization of the marginalized.”