Two former Vancouver Pride directors back Black Lives Matter's request for police not in parade

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      Two former Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) directors are asking the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to voluntarily withdraw from the Vancouver Pride parade.

      Former VPS president Tim Richards and vice-president Chrissy Taylor sent a letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson, VPD Chief Constable Adam Palmer, and B.C. RCMP assistant commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr on May 11 in support of Black Lives Matter Vancouver's (BLMV) request for the police to not participate in the parade.

      They state that they believe that police involvement in the parade has "created significant division both within the community and between the community and law enforcement", including heightening anti-black racism against black queer people. In particular, they note that these groups "have been most affected by systemic oppression including violence, harassment, and a lack of support by police institutions throughout North America".

      The two former directors state that during their six years serving the VPS, they learned about the importance of listening to queer community members, particularly from marginalized voices, including trans people, indigenous people, people of colour, and people with disabilities. They note that they held talks with trans community members in 2013 and 2014 who expressed how they didn't want to participate in the parade because of police participation.

      Richards and Taylor also are asking the police to follow the example of the Halifax Police Department, which chose to withdraw from their city's parade.

      Craig Takeuchi

      VPS operations executive director Kieran Burgess told the Georgia Straight by phone that the VPS had previously invited community members, including Richards and Taylor, to discuss concerns and issues with them before they made their final decision and therefore found the letter disappointing. (The VPS had planned to make their announcement on May 17 but have delayed it until May 18 to avoid distracting from the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.)

      In particular, Burgess said the VPS is wondering why Richards and Taylor wrote about hearing issues about police participation in 2013 and 2014 when they didn't address the issue while in positions to do so.

      "Under their leadership we saw police participation grow to what it is now and under their leadership, no change was really attempted to change that so we're just kind of wondering why now all of a sudden they've taken interested in this," he said.

      After BLMV launched a petition in February to request the removal of police from the parade, Burgess had previously told the Straight in February 22 interview that the VPS conducted an analysis of the City of Vancouver's entry in the parade, which includes police, fire, ambulance, library, and city staff. They discovered that police constituted 45 percent of the city's entry. The VPS has asked the City of Vancouver to reduce participation to one vehicle per department, which the city has agreed to.

      In Toronto, Pride Toronto's decision to remove police from the parade has resulted in backlash, including requests from police and politicians for the city to withdraw funding from Pride.

      The Vancouver Pride parade is scheduled to take place on August 6. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on FacebookYou can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.