Pride Toronto’s director said the document of demands he signed after Black Lives Matter Toronto stopped the annual parade on Sunday is not a binding agreement, but is instead only a promise to have a conversation with the activist group.
The Black Lives Matters protestors, who led the parade, stopped the celebration about two thirds of the way along the route to make their demands. The list included more funding for black queer groups, and removing all police floats from future parades.
Refusing to move until Pride agreed, executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed the document and the parade continued.
Chantelois said on Monday that the decision to no longer include police floats in Pride is a decision that needs to be made by the community, not BLM.
“Frankly, Black Lives Matter is not going to tell us that there is no more floats anymore in the parade. I will not tell you that there is no more floats in the parade because Pride is bigger than Black Lives Matter,” Chantelois said.
“Yesterday, we agreed to have a conversation about this. We agreed that we will bring this to the community and to the membership, but at the end of the day, if my membership says no way, we want to have police floats, they decide.”
BLM said they did not tell organizers about their plan to hijack the parade, an act that has since been called a “win” by the group, but widely criticized by many others.
Janaya Khan, a co-founder of the Toronto chapter, said the 30-minute planned protest that blocked the celebration at Yonge and College for its “anti-black practises” was kept “on a communal level.”
“Pride organizers were not made aware at the time because we did not feel that would be the most impactful action,” Khan said.
Following the sit-in, many criticized Black Lives Matter’s push to keep police out of Pride events.
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said he hadn’t heard anything official from Pride Toronto and is waiting for organizers to contact him about what will happen next. The police chief frequently marches in the parade, along with dozens of officers, including some who are part of the LGBT community.
“Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said on Monday that he thinks the protest was “shameful.”, not only did it hijack the parade, it hijacked the purpose,” he said.
“We in the policing community and the LGBT community worked together for many years making this a great event. Now what is everybody talking about? Black Lives Matter. You can’t tell me the organizers could be that naive to think this wouldn’t happen.”
Toronto Police, who had a visible presence at Pride, said they are not commenting on the demands made by BLM.
“I suggest you speak either with Black Lives Matter or with the Pride organizers. Those are the two people who are involved as far as I understand it,” police spokesperson Mark Pugash said.
“We’ve heard nothing from the Pride organizers so we’re really not in a position to comment.”
In February, Pride Toronto invited the group to help lead the parade, praising it for its fierce protests about police treatment of black people in the city — specifically, the practice of carding and the shooting death of Andrew Loku. The Toronto father of five was killed by police on July 5, 2015. Black Lives Matter has been highly critical of the Special Investigations Unit and the fact only parts of the SIU’s report into Loku’s death were released.