Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto denounced Pride Toronto on Thursday for its "abysmal" handling of issues affecting black people and warned organizers they would not back down on their demand to ban police floats at future Pride parades.
"The police have no place in Pride on floats, when they are harassing black youth day in and day out in this gay village," said Rinaldo Walcott, director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto and a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, who spoke to reporters near the site of Pride festivities.
Black Lives Matter Toronto, which was given the status of honoured group at this year's Pride, brought the Toronto parade to a half-hour standstill Sunday. Black Lives Matter allowed the parade to resume after Pride executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed a list of nine demands, including removing police floats and booths from future parades.
The Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter spent much of last year calling for transparency in high-profile police shootings of Toronto black men, but said Thursday their efforts for now will remain on Pride.
Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, said the group was "very disappointed" to see Mr. Chantelois publicly recant on the agreement Monday. "We as a community know, though, that this is historically accurate of Pride," Mr. Diverlus said. "There are commitments given to the black LGBTQ community and those commitments are quickly recanted."
In a statement this week, Pride Toronto said it "never agreed to exclude police services" from the parade and hasn't yet made a decision on police floats, but it plans to host a public town hall in August to get feedback. The organization could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Mr. Diverlus also condemned Mayor John Tory for his "vapid interest" in Black Lives Matter. Mr. Tory sent a letter of support to the Toronto police union on Tuesday, thanking members for the "professional way in which they have kept Pride and its participants safe all these years."
"I want to make it very clear to Mayor Tory that he has no place in this discussion and needs to stay in his lane," Mr. Diverlus said. "We are not interested in politicking back and forth with him."
Mr. Tory reiterated on Thursday the "positive evolution" between Toronto police and the city's LGBTQ community, but acknowledged "serious issues" of racism that need to be addressed. "Those are issues that Black Lives Matter raises and I respect the fact that they do that. Sometimes I take issue with how they do it, but again, it doesn't matter as much," Mr. Tory told reporters.
"If they need my help, they're welcome to ask for it. If they don't need my help, I've got many other things I can be doing," Mr. Tory said.
On Tuesday, Pride Toronto volunteer team lead Jacqie Lucas resigned in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. In a statement on Facebook, Ms. Lucas apologized to BLM for the "mistreatment, thoughtless and complete disregard which came along with being honoured."
Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Alexandria Williams called Ms. Lucas an ally. "Her comments of making sure our demands were seen as viable and realistic was something that all allies should do."
Black Lives Matter is an activist movement created in the U.S. in 2012 after the deadly shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.