Riots and rainbows

 

Steffanie Kollatos | Contributor

Featured Image: Should cops be allowed back at pride? | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


We know as a community, we don’t all face discrimination in the same way. The intersections of identity are different for all of us. We know that our trans, and non–binary members are especially targeted. We know that our community members of colour are increasingly in danger in our society. The LGBTQ+ community has always been supportive, the community often provides members a family they may have lost due to the decision to be true to who they are..

With the news that Pride Toronto is considering reopening applications to the Toronto Police Service, it is time to remind ourselves about why they were banned in the first place. There is a history between us, a bloody, messy history; one full of death, discrimination, and violence that cannot be ignored.

They want to pretend that because we can get married, and because shows like Drag Race are doing well, that means that we somehow live in a world where we’re no longer discriminated against, a world where we don’t have to constantly be on guard about whether our rights will be taken away; whether we will all make it home at the end of the night.

Many of us are aware of the origins of pride, of Stonewall and Marsha P. Johnson. Pride started as a protest against police. This was not the only protest, and this was not the only time police violated our rights as human beings. In Canada, the general public assumes that we live in some kind of utopia where racism and homophobia are something that happens elsewhere–; never in our own backyard. But marginalized communities see it everyday, and we see it at the hands of police officers. We remember Operation Soap, Project Marie, the Montreal cleanup before the summer Olympics, the hundreds of other bathhouse raids.

There will always be people who claim that these events happened in the past, that they don’t occur anymore, that we should be thankful for progress. Except this still happens in Canada. The Church and Wellesley community had been talking about a serial killer in the village since a man went missing in 2010, for almost 10 years, and police did nothing. Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur was finally found after seven men went missing.

This blatant disregard for queer lives is just another injustice our community has faced at the hands of the police, showing our community again that queer lives do not matter.

Lets not forget the reason why police were banned from pride in the first place. In 2016, Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLM) held a sit-in during the pride parade, to call attention to the marginalization of black community members. Providing a list of demands, BLM asked that Pride Toronto exclude police from the parade in an attempt to make community members feel safer.

A black, bisexual, trans woman threw that first brick at stonewall. Would Marsha be proud of our community today? Is letting police back into our spaces helping our community? Are we really looking out for each other?

On November 3, a demonstration was held at Pride headquarters on Berkeley Street. Signs covered windows with statements like “cops kill queers,” “when queer people go missing police don’t go looking,” and “Marsha didn’t throw bricks for this.” When asked why it was so important for our community to rally together, organizer Ashley Cooper said “If we want a say in how our community is managed and represented, we have to be willing to do some work ourselves,”

“If there comes a day where [the Toronto Police Service] no longer engages in racist policing, in the oppression of sex workers, and the defence of white supremacy, then maybe it will be time for them to march alongside us,” she adds.

Until that day, allowing police to dance and wave alongside people who spend the other 364 days of the year trying to survive, trying to avoid their attacks, would be a gross misrepresentation of the strength of our community.

We are supposed to protect our family members, and in doing so we get to decide who our allies are, we get to decide the best ways to protect our members, and that means no badges near our pride. That means resisting this decision, every step of the way.

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