Black Lives Matter Toronto stalls Pride parade
'We are not taking any space away from any folks,' said Alexandra Williams, co-founder of BLM Toronto
Members of the Black Lives Matter Toronto group briefly halted the Pride parade today, holding up the marching for about 30 minutes.
The parade didn't re-start until after Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed a document agreeing to the group's demands.
The organization was given the status of Honoured Group for the parade, which is the grand finale of Pride Month. It did not give Pride Toronto advance notice of their planned sit-in.
Alexandra Williams, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, told CBC's Natasha Fatah that they held the sit-in because they wanted to hold Pride Toronto accountable for what she called "anti-blackness."
Williams defended the group's actions.
"It's always the appropriate time to make sure folks know about the marginalization of black people, of black queer youth, black trans youth, of black trans people," she said.
"We are not taking any space away from any folks. When we talk about homophobia, transphobia, we go through that too ... It should be a cohesive unit, not one against the other. Anti-blackness needs to be addressed and they can be addressed at the same time, in the same spaces," she said.
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"We didn't bully our way into Pride ... we made space for ourselves in a place where we have been erased," Williams added.
In a news release, the group said Pride Toronto "has shown little honour to black queer/trans communities, and other marginalized communities. Over the years, Pride has threatened the existence of black spaces at Pride that have existed for years."
The group released a list of demands, including a commitment to increase representation among Pride Toronto staff, and to prioritize the hiring of black transgender women and indigenous people.
Some of the other demands Chantelois agreed to are that the parade will no longer have police floats, and the organization will hold a public town hall with groups such as Black Lives Matter Toronto within six months.
Pride Toronto, in response to the sit-in, said it welcomes the opportunity to "continue the conversation" with Black Lives Matter Toronto.
"During the parade, BLM-TO started a conversation with us to explore how we can create an even more inclusive and safe festival. We, like BLM-TO have a commitment to ensure our most marginalized communities feel safe and welcome at the festival."
Moment of silence for Orlando
The parade began at 2 p.m. at Bloor and Church streets. There was a pause at 3 p.m. in memory of the 49 Orlando victims.
One of the parade's marshals, Salah Bachir, said today's parade has a political aspect to it in the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings.
The people walking alongside his float held signs for the victims.
"I'm Arab. I'm gay," he told CBC News. "You know, I think it is just a celebration. There's so much [that's] non-stereotypical happening in the world. Sometimes people look at Islam as jihadist and paint all Arab people with it, and I wanted to show something a little different."
He said his float is dedicated to Arab rights in the Middle East.
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