Pride says it 'never agreed' to exclude police, as Black Lives Matter slams police for 'pink-washing'

A day after signing a list of demands from Black Lives Matter protesters, Pride Toronto says it never agreed to exclude police from its events. The list of demands included barring Toronto police floats and booths from future events.

Group says sit-in was to protest police brutality against those who are LGBT or a visible minority

Black Lives Matter Toronto, which was invited by Pride Toronto to help lead this year's parade, brought the procession to a standstill until a list of demands were met. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

A day after signing a list of demands from Black Lives Matter protesters, Pride Toronto says it never agreed to exclude police from its events.

The activist group presented the list at a sit-in halting the city's massive Pride parade for about 30 minutes Sunday, demanding that Toronto police floats and booths be barred from Pride marches, parades and community events. Their demands also included a commitment to increase representation among Pride Toronto staff and to better support black events during Pride. 

On Monday, Pride Toronto said in no uncertain terms it did not agree to bar police from the festival.

"Pride Toronto never agreed to exclude police services from the Pride parade... We have had, and will continue to have, discussions with the police about the nature of their involvement as parade participants," the organization said in a statement. 

"Frankly, Black Lives Matter isn't going to tell us there's no more floats in the parade," Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois told CP24 earlier in the day.

Police 'pink-washing'

But Janaya Khan told CBC News her group is not looking to exclude officers who identify as LGBT from participating in Pride events, but it opposes floats accompanied by uniformed, armed officers — calling them a stark reminder of the history of brutality faced by the LGBT community and visible minorities.

"To be clear, we said, 'No floats. No police floats,'" Khan said. "But we have no desire to police the police in terms of whether they should actually be there or not when they're LGBTQ-identified."

Khan said her group's actions are in keeping with "histories of resistance" that have long been a part of the tradition of Pride.

"If we think about the dyke march that happened 20 years ago, gay men were saying, 'Why should you have your own Pride?' ... Twenty years later it's an integral part of what Pride is all over the world. We're saying, should we wait 20 years before black lives are also considered an integral part?"

Janaya Khan says Black Lives Matter does not want to bar officers who identify as LGBT from participating in Pride events, but it opposes floats accompanied by uniformed, armed officers — calling them a stark reminder of the history of brutality faced by the LGBT community and visible minorities. (CBC)

'Officers are feeling betrayed'

Khan's criticism targeted police more than Pride organizers, however, taking aim at the force for only recently acknowledging its role in gay bathhouse raids that took place more than 30 years ago, and failing to apologize for a second raid on lesbians at Pussy Palace in the 1990s.

"This type of pink-washing that's happening, where it's like, 'We're in alignment with gender and sexually diverse people, but not in alignment with racialized people,' we can't stand for that," she said.

Meanwhile, Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, said the group's demands has LGBT officers feeling sidelined.

"I'm not surprised at Black Lives Matter and their shenanigans, but when people who are the organizers of this sign a document basically saying police shouldn't be involved … I think our officers are feeling betrayed." 

"We're supposed to be celebrating … and now what are we talking about? We're talking about Black Lives Matter and them hijacking the parade to facilitate a political agenda."

'We won'

Black Lives Matter protesters were triumphant after Chantelois signed their list of demands, allowing the parade to resume. "We shut it down. We won," the group tweeted.

Khan told CBC Radio's Metro Morning earlier Monday that allowing police in the parade made some communities feel unsafe and contributed to the event's "anti-blackness."

"We didn't halt the parade, we made progress in the parade," Khan said. "We're fighting for Pride to be more inclusive."

Alica Hall, co-chair of Pride Toronto, said her organization will meet with Toronto police to discuss the force's participation in any future festivities.

On Monday, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said he hadn't heard anything official from Pride Toronto and is waiting for organizers to contact him about what will happen next. The police chief frequently marches in the parade, along with dozens of officers, including some who are part of the LBGT community

Police officers from Hamilton joined in Sunday's Pride parade in Toronto. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Hall also said she was disappointed that Black Lives Matter didn't notify organizers about the demonstration but said she doesn't feel Pride Toronto lost by signing the agreement, calling the move "a moment of progress."

In February, Pride Toronto invited the group to help lead the parade, praising it for its fierce protests about police treatment of black people  in the city — specifically, the practice of carding and the shooting death of Andrew Loku. The Toronto father of five was killed by police on July 5, 2015. Black Lives Matter has been highly critical of the Special Investigations Unit and the fact only parts of the SIU's report into Loku's death were released. 

Gay police officer criticizes move

Following the sit-in, many criticized Black Lives Matter's push to keep police out of Pride events.

Chuck Krangle, a Toronto police constable who is gay, wrote an open letter to the organization that concludes: "Exclusion does not promote inclusion."

Seeing hundreds of police officers walking in the Pride parade was an eye-opening experience, Krangle said in the letter, which you can read here.

Khan told CBC News she has seen the letter and maintains the aim of the group's protest are to make Pride as inclusive as possible. 

"I say, 'We hear you.' Our objective is not to exclude those whose professions are within police and law enforcement," she said. 

On Monday, Khan also acknowledged criticisms of the sit-in as a spectacle.

"For us, it was a statement, it was a moment of the potential of real change to occur.… Tell me one massive action in the world that's changed the world that hasn't involved that." 

With files from Metro Morning