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Toronto police invited to march at New York Pride after Black Lives Matter row

Nick Duffy May 23, 2017

TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 3: Ken Leppert (L) of the Ontario Provincial Police, speaks with colleagues at the annual Pride Festival parade, July 3, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make history as the first Canadian PM to march in the parade. (Photo by Ian Willms/Getty Images)

Police officers in Toronto have been invited to march in New York’s Pride parade, after getting banned from Toronto Pride.

Pride Toronto took the unprecedented step this year of banning LGBT police officers from participating in this year’s Pride parade, after a highly controversial clash with Black Lives Matter protesters.

Last year the parade was disrupted by BLM protesters who criticised the event’s alleged “anti-blackness”, and only agreed to let the parade continue when Pride Toronto organisers signed a “contract” agreeing to a string of demands.

The demands included a ban on police officers marching in uniform, and a ban on police floats or stalls. At Pride Toronto’s AGM this week, a vote on the demands was held, with board members narrowly deciding to agree to ban police.

In a show of defiance, the US-based Gay Officers Action League invited Toronto’s police officers to join them during NYC Pride instead.

(Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

The group wrote to the Toronto Police Service to invite them to take part in the Pride march on June 25.

Speaking to CBC, the group’s President, police detective Brian Downey, explained LGBT cops should feel accepted.

He said: “The invitation was extended because we felt they were being excluded from the Pride festivities in Toronto, and we fought very hard over a very long period of time here in New York City to have the right to march in uniform.

“When you take away the uniforms, when you take away the equipment, you’re kind of saying that you can come, and you can be proud — but you can’t be police proud.”

He added: “If Toronto officers would like to march proudly as open LGBTQ criminal justice professionals in a march and they feel it’s important to identify both as an officer and a member of the community – we welcome them with open arms.”

Toronto Police Association head Mike McCormack said the row over police at Toronto Pride had “taken away from what we believe Pride and inclusivity is”.

He said the union was “delighted” and “honoured” by the invite to NYC Pride, and that the LBGTQ Internal Support Network are working with officers considering making the trip.

The officer added: “We think [the invite] is a mature and inclusive position to take.”

In a previous statement, Pride Toronto apologised for “a history of anti-blackness... that our organisation has continued”.

Pride Toronto said: “We apologise that the lack of decisive decision-making has left many in our communities feeling attacked. This is the opposite of what Pride is all about. There has been an unbelievable amount of racism expressed by members of our community through this organisation.”

They added: “When we received these demands – we understood that they are reflective of a long and difficult history between Pride and Black queer communities, but now also understand them to be reflective of our current efforts, or lack thereof, to improve relationships with Pride’s black community, and other marginalised communities.

“For this lack of understanding, effort to address historic wrongs, and repetition of past mistakes, we are sorry.

“Pride Toronto remains committed to all of the demands agreed to and presented by BLMTO.”

More: Americas, black lives matter, Canada, cop, Gay, LGBT, New York, NYC, police, Pride, Toronto

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