Police participation in Pride parades have been a contentious issue in numerous cities for the past few years and the organization the runs Vancouver’s annual Pride festivities has now resolved that it will find a way to ensure that officers are no longer at their events.
The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) stated in a news release issued today (June 10) that it plans to remove all law enforcement from forthcoming Vancouver Pride parades and festivals.
As all event organizers are currently required to hire the police for public events in the City of Vancouver, the VPS will consider options of how to challenge this permit system.
The VPS added that it is standing by Black Lives Matter’s demand for police accountability and will support BLM’s call to cut funding for the police.
While the 2020 edition of Vancouver Pride will be held virtually, the programming for this year aims to highlight oppressed voices by including LGBT people of colour and two-spirit performers at all events.
Meanwhile, the VPS will also provide Black organizers with resources to host either virtual events or in-person events for under 50 people during Pride Week, which will be held from July 27 up until the day of the Pride parade on August 2.
In addition, the VPS is offering a $5,000 bursary fund for antiracism work by groups or organizations. Queer people of colour or two-spirit facilitators will also be hired to two to three antiracism workshops to be held during Pride Week.
The VPS will be hiring a queer Indigenous person or person of colour for a senior management position in July and will recruit Black and Indigenous people for board positions when available.
“We reached out to QTBIPOC partners we work with on a regular basis as well as BLM-Vancouver to ensure our statement was in line with what our community has asked of us,” VPS executive director Andrea Arnot stated in a news release. “Our team took time to alter our budgets and event plans so that our 2020 Pride season would be in line with our commitments.”
In a statement posted on the VPS website today, the VPS points out that Pride arose from the Stonewall Riots in New York City in an uprising against police brutality and were led by Black and Brown trans women and queer people.
Black Lives Matter Vancouver began requesting that armed and uniformed police withdraw from participating in the Vancouver Pride parade in 2016 in response to concerns about police brutality against Black people.
Although the VPS previously allowed unarmed police not in uniform to participate in the parade, the VPS now states that officers are no longer welcome to march in or exhibit at the parade or festival.
The BLM movement began after the 2013 acquittal of Hispanic-American citizen George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old African-American citizen Trayvon Martin in the U.S. in 2012.
BLM garnered international attention for protests after a white police officer fatally shot two African American citizens—18-year-old Michael Brown and 22-year-old Dorian Johnson—in Ferguson, Missouri, 2014.
Meanwhile in May, the B.C. independent non-profit society Out on Patrol, based in Vancouver launched to support LGBT law enforcement members, to work with LGBT communities and police, and to offer presentation about bullying at schools.
The society happened to launch one week before 46-year-old African-American citizen George Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck during arrest, which triggered worldwide protests.
"Out On Patrol would like to state that the officer’s actions in the video are wholly not supported by this society, and in fact we strongly condemn them," Out on Patrol explained in a statement issued on June 4. "As a newly formed organization that is made up of members of the LGBTQIA2+ community that represents multiple departments, detachments, and organizations, we recognize we are accountable to those we have committed to serve in order to build a strong, positive, inclusive connection between law enforcement and the community."
Although they did not specify any actions that they will take, the society stated that they hope to "help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the LGBTQIA2+ community" and "if we do not take a stand, then we cannot properly represent our membership".