August 8, 2017

Pride London Directors Decide to Include Armed, Uniformed Police

Clara Sorrenti, Organizer of the YCL-LJC in London

On July 28th, 2017, members of London's Black LGBTQ2SIA community announced they would not be marching in Pride London this year due to safety concerns over Pride London’s policy of the inclusion of armed and uniformed police officers in the parade.

Last year, Ryan Robinson marched alongside the Pride Men's Chorus when he was approached by an armed 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." Rowa Mohamed, a previous member of Pride London’s organizing committee, has also pulled out for these reasons. Mohamed said it is time for London to take an active approach toward solidarity by excluding uniformed police, who 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.”

Members of Two Spirit contingent 
The Two-Spirit contingent that led the Parade noted that “London Pride made a last minute announcement that, not only would uniformed London cops be marching, they had also invited police from Waterloo & Durham, the OPP, & prison guards from Middlesex Detention Center. We find this absolutely disgusting.” In response to the events they stated, “There is no Queer Liberation while any Queer or Trans person still fears for their life because of the colour of their skin. The presence of police makes members of the Pride community unsafe because the police are openly violent against people of colour and gender nonconforming folks. This is not up for debate. If you fight for the police in Pride, you fight to maintain white supremacy.”

Despite these responses, Pride London’s President Andrew Rosser has been less than sympathetic. While comrades attended the Pride London Registration meeting on behalf of the Young Communist League, Rosser stated that despite the stance of Canada’s largest Pride Festival in Toronto, London will continue to permit armed and uniformed police to march in the parade. This was shamefully yet unsurprisingly met with the thunderous applause from members of the London, Waterloo and Durham police services, Middlesex Detention Centre as well many of Pride’s Corporate sponsors, and even a liaison for the 4th Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment.

London Police’s Diversity Officer, Theresa Allot, and
Pride London’s President, Andrew Rosser, raised a rainbow
flag at London Police headquarters Thursday
morning before the Pride march. (CBC)
In a CBC article in response to the concerns of Black activists in London, Rosser said "We won't get anywhere if we are constantly battling an organization that has a lot of power.” Rosser has not only paved the way for the exclusion of racialized communities, but clearly has no understanding of the history of LGBTQ2SIA liberation struggles and the the continuing hostile relationship between racialized communities and the police.

“I’ve been with London Police for 25 years and I know that at the beginning of my career there were officers that were doing things that were targeting people that identified as LGBTQ2 [sic] and I’m so proud of where we’ve come as a service,” said Allot, admitting to the ongoing targeting of members of the LGBTQ2SIA community by police.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Pride London has acted against the interests of the community it purports to represent. In 2015, Pride London named former Police Chief Brad Duncan as Grand Marshall. That year Andrew Rosser stated, “The police presence at the parade is extremely important for the feeling of safety of the community. We’ve come a long way but there are still safety concerns for parts of the community, especially our trans population.”

Despite this, the Young Communist League, along with other progressive organizations, participated in the Parade on Sunday as we believe that the fight for full equality is part of a broader fightback against the power of big corporations and for advanced democracy. As such, it is important to show our full support to these communities, to show that we are committed to work in unity with its members, but at the same time, it is important to remember what the Pride is really celebrating: a history of long-standing struggle and resistance against discriminatory policies.

In the joint 2017 Pride Statement, the YCL-LJC and the Communist Party of Canada make one thing clear: “we salute the actions and spirit of Black Lives Matter, and in particular their action during Toronto Pride in 2016, which reminded everyone that the commercialization of Pride, the role of corporations, and the institutional presence of police has whitewashed the ongoing marginalization and oppression, even within the rainbow community, of Black LGBTQ2SIA people, other LGBTQ2SIA people of colour, of Indigenous Two-Spirit people, and of LGBTQ2SIA people who suffer from income insecurity and poverty. Black Lives Matter reminded us that Pride was born in activism and struggle. However, that action also elicited a backlash from the corporate media and in some quarters of the LGBTQ2SIA community who wish to deny or dismiss the experience of racism, sexism and misogyny, transphobia, poverty, exploitation and Islamophobia in our very own community. The reality is that the commercialization of Pride, and the institutional participation of uniformed police, have made Pride less, not more, inclusive.”

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