Activists from Black Lives Matter Toronto say they feel betrayed by Pride Toronto executive director Mathiew Chantelois for backtracking on demands he signed and agreed to when the group staged a sit-in that halted the Pride parade for nearly 30 minutes over the weekend.
“Mathieu has gone back and forth on his solidarity with us. It shows Black Lives Matter and the Black LGBT community does not have a place in Pride Toronto,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Alexandria Williams told reporters on Thursday.
“He has actively made sure to push us out by flip-flopping on his stance.”
The group, which were honoured guests at this year’s event and led the parade, presented a list of nine demands — including barring police floats from future events – that Chantelois signed on the spot, ending the disruption.
However the following day, the Pride Toronto executive said nothing was agreed upon and that the signing was done only to get the parade moving again.
“These demands were accepted as full so we’re going to hold Pride accountable,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Rodney Diverlus.
The group also lashed out at Mayor John Tory for publicly supporting the police calling it a “backwards step” to exclude them from the parade.
“What the mayor has done has very clearly stated that he is in cahoots with the police, that he is not invested in a more inclusive Pride, he is not invested in LGBT communities that are marginalized. He is not invested in Black liberation,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Janaya Khan said.
“He has taken a side. A mayor should not be taking sides when the question is: ‘What does justice look like with structural and systemic power given to the police? And when we are representing disenfranchised marginalized communities?”
Williams said the group is opposed to having a “militarized” police presence at the parade and would prefer officers take part in the festivities without their uniform and guns.
“Within the last 24 hours, we’ve seen two black bodies shot and killed by police. What does that mean when you’re trying to be a part of Pride when you have a symbolic representation of your oppression, of your violence,” Williams said referencing the police involved shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Phlando Castile in the United States.
“We are asking for the removal of that triggering symbolism in order for all marginalized communities to be safe at Pride.”
Black Lives Matter Toronto say they plan to hold a public meeting with LGBTQ community members in the coming weeks to discuss what further steps need to be taken to further their cause for a more inclusive Pride.
“We want Pride Toronto and the mainstream LGBT community to know that we see through the anti-black racism,” Diverlus said. “We see through the violence that has happened and that this community is very serious in moving forward.”