Despite 10 months consulting hundreds of people and organizations, the Vancouver Pride Society’s decision to include uniformed police in the Pride Parade amounts to little more than “a few performative tweaks.”
This is the criticism of the Vancouver chapter of Black Lives Matter, a group of anti-oppression, anti-racism activists that lobbied to exclude armed, uniformed officers from marching in the parade, arguing the event itself is a historic protest for visibility and celebration to counter violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Vancouver police and regional RCMP officers, along with Corrections Canada, will join municipal entries in the parade. The majority will wear t-shirts as city employees while roughly one in five will wear uniforms and carry weapons.
The debate has introduced spiteful and painful divisions within participants who argue a police presence represents the gains of hard-fought relationships and bonds built between officers and community members in contrast to others who feel that marginalized individuals, including people of colour, trans people, and indigenous people, remain oppressed by violent institutions and systems, which includes police.
Yesterday, the Pride Society (VPS) announced its decision following 10 months of discussions.
In response, BLM-V issued a statement saying, “nothing has changed under this decision except a few performative tweaks.”
The activists’ criticism was sharp. The society “failed us,” they wrote.
“Crafting the illusion of anti-racism and anti-oppression is easier than actually doing the work required to be anti-racist and anti-oppressive,” read a statement issued Thursday evening on Facebook.
“Appeasing stakeholders and the violent armed wing of an illegitimate colonial state is more important to VPS than uplifting marginalized racialized — black, people of colour, indigenous — queer people, even if framed otherwise.”
The statement continued, “Months of emotional labour by Black Lives Matter Vancouver presented the VPS with an opportunity to drastically unlearn anti-blackness and shift the focus of their parade from institutions and corporations to real marginalized communities. Instead, they chose police. The Vancouver Pride Society has failed us.”
However, the activists directed their most pointed criticisms at the institution of policing.
“Worse still, are the police themselves. Yes, we feel betrayed and angry with VPS but we understand that their ultimate goal is to plan events for the LGBTQ/2S community. The police, globally and locally, are an oppressive institution that have no place in a parade for marginalized groups.
“The Pride movement was created in opposition to the institution of policing due to the violence it inflicts on the LGBTQ/2S community. With a history of gay-bashing, bar raids, sexual assault and brutality against queer communities in Canada, it really begs the question… WHY are the police so insistent on marching in the Pride parade?”
Uniformed officers will not march in the Toronto parade, a decision that follows a Black Lives Matter sit-in last summer and a subsequent vote at an annual general meeting upholding their requests. Police in Halifax withdrew from that city’s pride parade.
In Vancouver, the police department said they are pleased to be part of the city’s pride parade for a 21st year.
To read the full Black Lives Matter –— Vancouver statement, visit their Facebook page.