Black Lives Matter Vancouver march in West End to protest police participation in Pride 2017
Black Lives Matter Vancouver (BLMV) held their protest against police participating in the Vancouver Pride parade, marching from Yaletown to the West End today (June 25).
A few hundred participants assembled at Emery Barnes Park (at Davie and Seymour streets), which was named after the first black male MLA in B.C.
The gathering and march was organized to protest the Vancouver Pride Society's decision to allow 20 percent of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) contingent to march in uniform, which BLMV was unhappy with.
The rest of the police in the parade will participate out of uniform. BLMV have been requesting since July 2016 that all uniformed police officers be removed from the parade and launched a petition this year in February.
Before the BLMV march, attendees listened to speakers and performances at Emery Barnes Park.
After being introduced, Audrey Siegl from Musqueam Nation was the opening speaker at the event.
"The criminalization of still existing is supported by the police and law enforcement systems that were created to quiet and quell the Indian uprisings here in Canada," she said. "I'm here to connect the dots between Black Lives Matter, between indigenous women, between Asian communities, between our brothers and sisters in the Downtown Eastside."
She also addressed arguments defending the police.
"While the police continue to target and violate and harass and murder, they're not welcome," she explained. "We have the ongoing issue of the good cop. 'Yeah, but they're not all bad. It's just a few bad apples. They are human beings in the uniform.' Part of me wants to believe that but the bigger part of me knows that I'm just not safe around them. I am more safe in the Downtown Eastside with people we were taught to fear than I am in a room full of police….Shift the focus to where and what and who the actual problem is and I can tell you, we are not the problem. We are the solution."
Black Lives Matter's Joy Gyamfi summarized the origins of Pride in New York City's Stonewall riots in 1969, in which queer people fought back against raids by police. She named several queer and trans people of colour, including Martha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were pivotal figures in galvanizing action during the riots.
"Pride began as a protest and it can't be celebration if only some people feel safe," she said. "There can't be Pride for some of us, without liberation for all of us."
Kamloops-based two-spirit activist and Thompson Rivers University instructor Jeffrey McNeil from Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc Nation spoke about the overrepresentation of black and indigenous communities in jails, child apprehension and abduction cases, and profiling and death.
He was critical of Pride's corporate sponsors, who he claimed were not against LGBT oppressors but only after the pink dollar.
"They are in solidarity, though, with your LGBTQ consumption, with your quest for aesthetics, and your beautiful, buff go-go boy, no-fats, no-femmes, no-blacks, no-Asians, no-Natives, straight-acting, straight-looking, send-me-a-dick-pic queer misogyny," he said. "Right now, this Vancouver Pride board is basically saying that blue lives matter more by letting a small garrison of militarized police march in this parade."
The march proceeded from Emery Barnes Park along Davie Street to Alexandra Park at Bidwell and Burnaby streets on Beach Avenue down at English Bay.