Pride organizers propose compromise with BLM, condemn 'racist backlash'
Published Thursday, February 23, 2017 1:31PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, February 23, 2017 1:34PM PST
Organizers of the Vancouver Pride Parade are suggesting police limit their involvement in this year's event as a compromise with local Black Lives Matter activists.
In a statement published Wednesday, the Vancouver Pride Society said it has listened to the anti-racism group's concerns and is willing to consider changes to the police presence in the parade.
"People of colour, transgender, indigenous and other vulnerable people still face systemic discrimination at the hands of powerful institutions, both here in Vancouver and around the world," non-profit organization said.
"We know the parade in 2017 needs to be different to make everyone feel safer."
Organizers stopped short of accepting Black Lives Matter's call to remove the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP from the parade altogether, but did propose a number of softer measures.
Though their decision isn't final, they suggested police could march in T-shirts this year instead of their uniforms and bring fewer vehicles to the parade.
They also suggested there could be a more equal representation of civic services; police have made up as much as 45 per cent of the city's presence in past parades.
The Vancouver Pride Society also condemned what it described as a "significant amount" of racism directed at Black Lives Matter members from within the LGBTQ community.
"As activists are entitled to do, Black Lives Matter Vancouver has made some pretty clear demands. And, as a result of those demands, their members have faced racist backlash, hate mail, death threats and other forms of violence," the non-profit organization said.
"The Vancouver Pride Society acknowledges we have not been quick to act in the past, and for this we are sorry."
Organizers said they will continue to work with BLM, the Vancouver Police Department and Mounties to find a solution.
Black Lives Matter members held a Facebook livestream after the announcement to address some of the common questions and criticisms they've faced, including that they are pushing racial issues onto Pride.
The Vancouver chapter was founded by queer women and transgender people, they said, and their concerns naturally intersect.
"Black people are queer people too. Black people are trans people too," member Daniella Barreto said.
They also responded to the argument that the VPD has earned its place in the parade by fostering a supportive relationship with the LGBTQ community.
Many people of colour still feel uncomfortable marching with uniformed police, they said, and voluntarily withdrawing from the parade would mean more to BLM members than "[showing] up in feather boas."
"If those relationships are real then police would immediately step out and offer support in other ways so everyone can feel safe," Barreto said.
Black Lives Matter launched a petition earlier this month to remove police forces from the parade in favour of officers participating as individuals out of uniform, and it has since been signed more than 900 times.
A counter-petition calling for police to stay put has been signed nearly 2,800 times. BLM suggested the response was less about supporting police than it was about rejecting its members' concerns.
"Are you so passionate that you absolutely must have the police there? I don't think so. I don't think that's what the petition's about," Cicely-Belle Blain said.
"We are putting our voices forward and being called bullies and being called terrorist because of anti-blackness."
The Vancouver Police Department, which has taken part in the parade since 2002, has not responded to a request for comment on the Pride Society's announcement.