There is plenty of mean spirited dialogue taking place on social media, by those for and those against police presence in the parade, and it’s shaking up the LGBTQ2+ community. Well respected community leaders are being bullied, harassed and threatened over posting their beliefs and opinions on social media, none of which helps the dialogue . If you’re against the police in uniforms you may be called a bully, and if you’re posting in favour of police in uniforms you’re being called a racist or anti-black. Friends are challenging each other on social media. BLM Vancouver is demanding no police presence at all.
Many in the community feel bridges between police and Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ took many years to achieve. It’s difficult for some to imagine no police participation. Jim Deva worked for decades to build bridges with the Vancouver PD is a common sentiment, so it’s no wonder this issue is passionate for many. The Vancouver Police said they will participate in this year’s Pride, but it’s going to be different. The Vancouver Pride Society explains in the statement below.
It’s important to learn as much as you can about the fear black people and people of colour (POC) face when talking or engaging with police. Dialogue must continue locally, across the country and around the world.
On February 22, 2017 Vancouver Pride issued it’s latest statement regarding police presence in the Pride Parade. Black Lives Matter Vancouver also held a Facebook live on Feb. 22 to address some concerns. You can watch the broadcast here. A transcript of the broadcast in google docs can be downloaded here.
Statement from Vancouver Pride Society posted to Facebook on February 22, 2017
For several months, the Vancouver Pride Society has been engaged in consultation and dialogue surrounding police participation in the Pride Parade. This has come after work by Black Lives Matter – Vancouver, BC to remind everyone that people of colour, transgender, indigenous and other vulnerable people still face systemic discrimination at the hands of powerful institutions, both here in Vancouver and around the world.
As activists are entitled to do, Black Lives Matter Vancouver has made some pretty clear demands. And, as a result of those demands, their members have faced racist backlash, hate mail, death threats and other forms of violence.
This is absolutely not acceptable, and the Vancouver Pride Society condemns that type of behavior unequivocally.
These events, along with comments we have read on social media, news stories, and in correspondence we have received, make it clear that there is a significant amount of anti-Blackness and racism within our LGBTQ2+ community. This is not okay, and we must all do our part to speak out against it whenever we see it. The Vancouver Pride Society acknowledges we have not been quick to act in the past, and for this we are sorry.
Although our consultation process is ongoing, we wanted to take this opportunity to update the community on the work we have been doing with the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department and Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We know the Parade in 2017 needs to be different to make everyone feel safer, so we have made some suggestions. These were inspired by Black Lives Matter Vancouver’s open letter from 2016, as well as community consultations that have taken place over the past six months.
1) To have a more equal representation of all civic services in the City of Vancouver’s Pride Parade entry, which in the past has been as much as 45-percent police.
2) To have police reduce their footprint in the parade (fewer vehicles and no armored response vehicles)
3) To have police march in t-shirts as opposed to their uniform, and
4) To have police commit to further meaningful engagement with vulnerable populations or those who feel unsafe participating in the Pride Parade (i.e. listening circles, dialogues, etc.)
We will continue to work with Black Lives Matter, other groups representing people of colour, Indigenous and transgender people to ensure their voices and feedback are heard. The Vancouver Police Department and Royal Canadian Mounted Police have committed to working through this process with Vancouver Pride Society to find solutions that allow all participants of Pride to feel safer.