Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Disrupting the disruptors

At the Pride parade this past weekend there was quite a hiccup - Black Lives Matter protesters staged a sit in, blocking the parade from moving for 30 mins.  The standoff ended when a Pride representative signed an agreement that BLM insisted on, and eventually things went back to the plan.  The BLM demands looked like this:

Some of those demands seem like they would meet little resistance.  6, for example, is particularly hard to argue with.  Pride is dominated by white men, and increasing diversity would be a good thing.  I think you would find that this demand has pretty broad base support.  Removing all police floats though, number 8, seems much more controversial.  Even though Pride signed the petition at the time, they are now claiming that they won't necessarily do everything on it, which comes as no surprise whatsoever to me.  BLM got attention with their protest, which is obviously a big part of their agenda, but signing this document was just a stunt.  It isn't binding, especially because you can't expect a document signed under pressure from a group breaking the law to be upheld by a court, just as you wouldn't be expected to honour an agreement signed at gunpoint.

Decades ago I would have just figured that the police should just wait a few minutes then arrest the people blocking the street.  Go through the proper channels, I would have said.  Talking to other people and reading articles about this I found a lot of people who agreed with teenage me.  These days my responses are quite different.  The proper channels are put in place and enforced by the very people BLM are protesting against.  The police and the courts incarcerate and assault them at much higher rates, so no wonder they aren't interested in bowing to law enforcement authority or rules.  Those rules don't serve them, so why should they serve the rules?

I am not a big fan of disrupting Pride, but queer people of colour are more oppressed than white queer people, and pushing that problem to the front of people's consciousness is a good thing.  I hope BLM wasn't actually thinking that the signing of this list of demands was going to be binding, but I suspect they never thought that.  They wanted publicity, attention, and for their demands to be known and spread far and wide.  Their actions this weekend certainly achieved that.

In particular I was thinking a lot about the removal of police floats from the parade.  I think there is value in police symbolically extending an olive branch to people they have oppressed in a huge way historically, (and in a much smaller way today).  Police publicly supporting queer people is good.

But you cannot deny that people in that parade are unfairly attacked, harassed, and pressured by police.  They don't want police around in their parades, and you can't fault them for that.  Police make people like me a bit wary, and I am a straight white guy, not someone the police traditionally inflict grief upon.  I can't even imagine how it would feel to know that a group that consistently attacks and occasionally kills people like you are marching in a parade with you.

I wonder how police could still offer their olive branch, still try to show their commitment to changing their old ways, while not torpedoing Pride for the very people who need that place the most.  I don't have answers, but I do hope that Pride finds a way.


  1. FWIW, me and all (literally, all, though I am admittedly not talking about an even remotely unbiased sample here) of the queers I've actually talked to about this are *huge* fans of Pride being disrupted. Pride Toronto hasn't really been serving queers for quite some time (they regularly make choices and set rules based on the goal of maintaining corporate sponsorship at the expense of making queer voices heard), and needs some major shaking up.

    1. Good to know. I knew Pride was pretty mainstream, but the circle of voices I have around me, while it contains queer elements, certainly isn't as queer as yours, so it is good to get that side of things.

      This is the sort of topic I write about with some degree of trepidation, because I just can't see it from a queer point of view just due to how I am, privilege and such. I do want to talk about it though, because that helps me get opinions like yours; gives me access to knowledge I can't acquire just through thinking a lot.