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Pride Toronto Apologizes for 'History of Anti-Blackness' Following Parade Protest

Pride Toronto Apologizes for 'History of Anti-Blackness' Following Parade Protest

black lives matter

"There has been an unbelievable amount of racism expressed by members of our community through this organization," the group writes.

Pride Toronto has issued an apology for its response to a protest of this year's Pride event, in which Black Lives Matter demonstrators shut down the festivities by blocking the parade.

In a 2,000-word statement posted to its website, Pride Toronto acknowledged a "history of anti-blackness" in its organization. The LGBT group apologized "emphatically and unreservedly for its role in deepening the divisions in our community ... and repeated marginalization of the marginalized within our community that our organization has continued."

Pride Toronto further stated that its handling of the July incident left much to be desired.

"We apologize that the lack of decisive decision-making has left many in our communities feeling attacked," the organization writes. "There has been an unbelievable amount of racism expressed by members of our community through this organization. For that, we are sorry."

In shutting down the parade, Black Lives Matter Toronto protesters handed Pride organizers a list of demands -- which included banning police presence at the event, increasing diversity within the group's leadership, and providing increased funding for events and resources for people of color. This would include providing financial backing for Blockorama, one of Pride Toronto's annual stages that celebrates queer black Canadian identity.

Those demands were signed by Mathieu Chantelois, the ex-executive director of Pride, but not with the intention of implementing them. Chantelois told the Canadian Pressthat he only agreed to sign the list of demands to get the parade going once again.

Chantelois would resign from his position in August, following allegations ofracism, sexual harassment, and transphobia under his tenure.

Since Chantelois's departure, the organization says that it conducted an 1,000-person survey of LGBT and racial minority members of the Toronto community. Pride Toronto also received more than 1,100 emails about how to improve the event.

"The responses we received clearly demonstrate a very divided community," the organization states, adding: "In a city like Toronto ... our intersecting identities and lived experiences mean our experiences in this city are very different. ... Race and gender are, perhaps not unlike the rest of society, clearly the issues with which our community has the greatest difficulty with."

Pride cochair Aaron GlynWilliams said that the apology has been a long time coming.

"The apology was writ large for the way the organization has been somewhat silent since the [parade]," GlynWilliams told the Toronto Star. "But also ... this is somewhat an outcome of a very long history that the organization has, and has had, with members of marginalized communities and black queer communities, and that's also something that we're trying to recognize."

As of now, however, Pride Toronto has not committed to a plan of action, particularly on the issue of law enforcement. The BLM demand for a ban on the presence of law enforcement at the Pride Toronto includes both armed security at the event and police floats in the parade.

"LGBT officers in uniform want to be celebrated, and that's an important part of Pride," GlynWilliams said, "and frankly members of our community feel safer with the police there, particularly post-Orlando and other events of violence. But we also understand some of our most marginalized groups, the groups that really started the Pride movement, continue to face unfair discrimination and that maybe 400 officers in uniform and dozens of vehicles with sirens blaring is traumatizing."

"It's not an issue that we should in a quick way be deciding, one way or another, in or out," he concluded. "It's more complex than that."

For many in Black Lives Matter Toronto, words without action isn't enough.

"We already know there's anti-blackness," organizer Syrus Marcus Ware told Canada's Global News. "What are you going to do about it? We need this organization to be better and to represent the diversity of the community organization to fight for us."

Black Lives Matter spokesman LeRoi Newbold argued that the police issue will continue to be a sticking point -- and may lead to future protests.

"This isn't a dispute between community members," Newbold said in an interview with the Toronto Star. "It's a discussion about including a very violent government body in the parade. Police come in uniform with their specific divisions and they participate in the parade as an institution, as a governmental body. That comes with the symbolism of everything that the police represent."

Pride Toronto is holding elections for four spots on its board as well as searching for a new executive director. The group will address further action after new leadership is put in place.

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