'You take away from Pride when you exclude': first responders throw their own party
First Responders Unity Festival a response to Pride Toronto's ban on uniformed officers
In response to Pride Toronto's police ban, an independent festival for first responders sprung up in a Toronto park on Sunday.
Organizers of the First Responders Unity Festival encouraged uniformed emergency workers and allies to watch 100 Toronto officers march in New York City's Pride parade on an outdoor screen.
- Toronto police not at Pride parade for 1st time since 2000
- 'Enough is enough:' Pride Toronto board member explains decision to ban police
Mayor John Tory, who was in attendance early Sunday afternoon, said Pride Toronto officials and police were in talks to resolve the police-ban dispute.
But in the meantime, co-organizer Bryn Hendricks took the issue into his own hands.
"For me, Pride has always been about inclusion," Hendricks, who usually participates in Pride events, told CBC Toronto.
"When we start excluding people, lawful individuals and organizations, that's not what Pride has been founded on.
"I feel like we're taking a step backwards," he added. "Everybody's welcome here."
Pride Toronto banned uniformed officers from marching in the parade following last year's demonstration by Black Lives Matter, who held up the event and demanded the exclusion of uniformed officers from future events.
- Toronto police invite to NYC Pride parade 'a slap in the face'
- OPINION | I'm black and gay. Black Lives Matter Toronto doesn't speak for me
Hendricks expressed concern over protesters appearing at the Unity Festival. Organizers had set up pylons and tape to prevent free movement into the festival area.
Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown spoke in support of the event.
"You take away from Pride when you exclude," he told reporters.
A GoFundMe page created May 22 had raised over $1,800 for the festival as of Sunday afternoon.
With files from CBC's Devin Heroux