Just a week after a mea culpa from Chief Mark Saunders for the 1981 bathhouse raids it’s now Pride Toronto’s turn to apologize to Toronto Police.
If smart, they won’t wait 35 years.
In fact doing so today is the only way to repair the damage and hurt that will be the fallout from Pride Toronto’s executive director Mathieu Chantelois signing a Black Lives Matter document Sunday which completely threw police under the bus.
It all stems from unnamed protesters flying the Black Lives Matter banner disrupting the Pride Parade Sunday with a half-hour sit in at Yonge and College Sts. which was only halted after its list of demands were signed by Chantelois.
Almost like a hostage situation there were calls for extra space at events and funding for black participants in future Pride activities but it was number 8 on the list that could spark the end of Pride as we know it.
Number 8 called for the “removal of police floats/booths in all Pride marches/parades/community spaces.”
So much for inclusion and tolerance. That Chantelois agreed to this stunned Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack.
“Shame on Pride organizers -Toronto Pride agrees to demands after Black Lives Matter Toronto briefly halts parade” he tweeted.
“Toronto Pride organizers agree to BLM demands including “no police floats” in future Pride parades.”
But this third tweet send a message that Pride organizers won’t be able to turn their backs on.
“@PrideToronto turns their backs on Toronto Police @TorontoPolice #BLM demand no police float in #PrideParade” was his third.
"We expect a full retraction and apology from the Pride people" McCormack told the Toronto Sun Monday.
"Anything short of that could effect our members feeling comfortable volunteering for that event in the future."
If they don’t rectify this today, their parade as it has come to be known could be in jeopardy.
There is no pride parade without Toronto Police and certainly without the backing of Toronto Police officers who are not just deployed but are enthusiastic volunteers. So much accommodation is made, and so many blind eyes turned, to allow for it and many of the side events to operate as they do.
No other event is given the same courtesies and loosening of standards. For example, in stark contrast over at Christie Pits there was a zero tolerance for rule bending approach by Toronto Police’s parking enforcement people at the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball game where parking violators were ticketed $50, including team owner Jack Dominico, who the field is named after.
No breaks there. There was much more leniency and discretion offered over at Pride.
Let alone the incredible security police provide to participants who for decades feared for their safety, if things were done by the book there are many infractions at the parade or its events that could be written up including public nudity, marijuana use and public intoxication.
That good could soon be gone if rank-and-file officers decide it’s not a friendly event toward them and they are not backed up despite their support.
Pride Toronto should have been more grateful and respectful to Toronto Police. It was a mistake Chantelois made but his was not the only one.
Toronto Police command itself also erred by not arresting and removing the protesters who marred arguably Toronto’s most important annual event in what was nothing more than a successful attention-grabbing stunt that should not have been bowed to by organizers or police. If they ruined a Blue Jays game or were selling pot in a store front, they would have been dealt with more harshly.
This is an example of why it is dangerous for police to become too much part of an event instead of just policing it. Ironically demands for more money while holding up an event with the prime minister, premier, cabinet ministers and mayor and councillors would be not only be frowned upon but not likely tolerated. That they were not physically removed was something that fell under the umbrella of the kind of special compensation made to participants in Pride.
Lots of stuff is overlooked -- but this should not have been.
Their protest worked because not only did they force organizers to acquiesce to their demands but they also knocked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s historic appearance off the front page.
It was a gutsy move by Black Lives Matter and we will soon see if Pride Toronto has the guts to stand up to them the day after and save the future of their parade by making amends immediately with Toronto Police.
If not, where do the demands of Black Lives Matter end?