Black Lives Matter NYC 'inspired' by Toronto chapter's call for removal of uniformed police

Inspired by Black Lives Matter Toronto’s demonstration at the Toronto Pride Parade last year, members of the activist group in New York City are now calling for the removal of uniformed police officers from their city’s parade.

“Let us start off by saying that we stand in full solidarity with our siblings of the Toronto Chapter of #BlackLivesMatter,” read a statement by Black Lives Matter New York City on Sunday afternoon.

In addition to the removal of uniformed officers, the group also called for Pride organizers in New York to do more to emphasize queer and transgender black communities.

The statement comes the same day that a group of some 100 Toronto police officers — banned from marching in uniform at the Toronto parade — travelled with a group of union representatives to New York City to participate in that city’s parade at the invitation of the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL).

‘It’s pretty pathetic,’ says police union head

Speaking to CBC Toronto ahead of the march, the force’s own LGBT liaison officer, Const. Danielle Bottineau, acknowledged many in the community saw that move as a “slap in the face.”

The president of the union representing Toronto police officers said they shouldn’t need to make the trip.

“It’s pretty pathetic,” said Mike McCormack. “We should not be down here. We should be in our own city, marching with our own community that we police each and every day.” 

During a 30-minute sit-in at last year’s parade, Black Lives Matter Toronto members demanded that Toronto police floats and booths be barred from future Pride parades and community events. Their demands also included a commitment to increase representation among Pride Toronto staff and to better support black events during Pride. 

On Sunday, the group made an appearance at Toronto’s Pride parade despite not being registered to march this year.

The group took to the parade route just before the end of the day’s festivities with raised fists and posters bearing the words, “May we never again have to shut it down.”

‘We don’t need to register’

Speaking to reporters after the demonstration, co-founder Rodney Diverlus wouldn’t say how long the group had been planning to show up.

“I don’t think that’s relevant,” he said. 

“Pride is actually ours. Queer and trans people of colour actually started this. We don’t need to register for a deadline, we don’t need to tell you we’re coming, we don’t need to pay money for a float. We’re just going to take up space,” said Diverlus.

Pride Toronto did not return request a request for comment by CBC Toronto Sunday night.

Rodney Diverlus

“Our police can’t just escape us and [hope] that they’re not going to be held accountable,” Rodney Diverlus said. (CBC)

On Sunday, also Diverlus responded to the move by those members of the Toronto police who decided to march in New York City. 

“Our police can’t just escape us and [hope] that they’re not going to be held accountable. Folks in Black Lives Matter New York reminded Toronto police that no matter where they go black people will resist them. We know where you are. We know what you’ve done.”

“We are here at Pride 2017 to remind the community, that we are still standing up for them,” the organization tweeted Sunday afternoon.

Diverlus said part of the reason for appearing at this year’s march unannounced was to draw attention to the list of nine demands that the group presented at last year’s Pride Parade — issues he says have been overlooked with all the focus on “where police are at” this year.

As part of their message, the group also drew attention to what it called “the violence of police anti-Blackness” in the recent inquest into the death of 45-year-old Andrew Loku, the father of five who came to Canada as a refugee from South Sudan and was shot by police in an apartment corridor while holding a hammer in July 2015.

The group has been highly critical of the Special Investigations Unit assessment of the case and what they perceive as a lack of transparency from the police watchdog.

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