Why some black LGBTQ activists won't march at Pride London

Several members of the LGBTQ black community won’t be marching in Pride London this year in protest of uniformed police presence.

"Most times, when officers approach me it's not a friendly situation"

Rowa Mohamad won’t be marching in Pride London this year in protest of uniformed police presence. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Several members of London's LGBTQ black community won't be marching in Pride London this year to protest the presence of uniformed police officers.

Ryan Robinson marched alongside the Pride Men's Chorus last year when he was approached by a uniformed police officer.

"It was a friendly greeting but I was on edge," he said. "Most times, when officers approach me it's not a friendly situation."

The recent Western University graduate claims he often gets racially profiled through what he called selective street checks. He said he won't be marching in a space that isn't safe for him.

"Certain bodies will not be privileged in certain ways when it comes to representing who is Pride London," he said. "I understand not every cop is bad but when it comes to my own personal safety – when I imagine safe spaces – I don't imagine cops there."

Pride London said it has improved its relationship with London police over the years. A former London police chief led the parade two years ago as grand marshal.

Andrew Rosser, Pride London president, Theresa Allott, London Police diversity officer, at the pride flag raising Thursday in London at the London Police headquarters. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Rowa Mohamad, who was previously a member of a Pride London organizing committee, has also pulled out this year.

She said it's time for London to take the right approach toward solidarity by excluding uniformed police, who she said have a history of oppressive behaviour toward racialized communities.  

"When we accept police into Pride, we accept the history of violence of police oppression and we compromise the safety of already marginalized people," she said. "I feel that we don't belong at Pride and that our suffering is never going to be prioritized over the symbolic presence and empty solidarity of police being present at Pride."

Last year, Black Lives Matter activists demanded Pride Toronto ban police floats from its parade. Shortly after, Toronto police officers were banned from participating in the parade while in uniform.

Several other cities did the same, including Sudbury, Vancouver and Calgary.

Pride London open to suggestions

Andrew Rosser, the Pride London president, recognizes there are concerns and said the Pride board has interacted with community groups, including individuals in the black community.

"We are very open to collaboration so if anyone has suggestions of ways to make the festival more diverse we welcome that," said Rosser.

The board's inclusion strategy includes a partnership with London police.

"We won't get anywhere if we are constantly battling an organization that has a lot of power," he said. 

The London Police Service is set to march this Sunday at the annual parade.