TORONTO – Hundreds of members of Toronto’s gay community packed the Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park Tuesday to discuss where Pride Toronto goes from here following months of controversy.
The dialogue was supposed to be “respectful” — or at least that was how Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam put it to the crowd — about what to do following the controversial move by Black Lives Matter, Pride’s honoured group, to disrupt the July 3 parade with a sit-in that led to the recent resignation of executive director Mathieu Chantelois over allegations he’d subjected staff to racist and sexist comments and sexual harassment.
But in a move reminiscent of their Pride Parade tactics, BLM members and their supporters quickly hijacked the Town Hall, using the platform to rail against police and shout down any viewpoints other than their own.
Speaker after speaker argued BLM was right to want the police out of the parade and anyone who dared to disagree was shouted down, jeered and called racist.
Gary Kinsman, who was part of the first lesbian and gay pride committee in 1981 following the infamous Bathhouse raids, suggested to the crowd that 2016 has been a year of “very virulent anti-black racism” and as long as any members of Toronto’s gay community are “under attack” by the police, the community should not collaborate with them.
A woman named Jocelyn said the police are not needed at the parade and that the gay community can keep itself safe.
“Police harass and kill some members of our community,” she said to sustained applause.
When community member Joe Clark dared suggest he filed a complaint to Pride’s dispute resolution process about BLM’s tactics in the July 3 parade, he was jeered and bullied with taunts of “f—ing racism”; “it’s a racism zone” and orders to the meeting’s facilitator Tanya De Mello (who tried her best to keep order) to throw Clark out for allegedly being racist and violent.
Elizabeth Plukhovska was also mocked and accused of being racist when she suggested that police should not be banned from the parade.
“Allowing the police to participate shows how far we’ve come,” she said, adding that Pride Toronto should not “tolerate aggressive behaviour” even from its honored group, a comment went over like a lead balloon in the emotionally charged meeting.
It seemed the die had already been cast at the meeting’s start, when co-chair Alicia Hall told the crowd Pride Toronto had signed an agreement to work with BLM on their demands.
She said the ban on police participation in the parade — the most “contentious” demand — will be sent to Pride’s dispute resolution process for a decision.
A DRP panel will be announced next month, she added.
The DRP process was the same means used to declare that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid did not disseminate hate and was fine to march in the parade.