FAQ Regarding Police Decision
May 25, 2020
Many of you have questions regarding our decision about police participation in the Pride Parade. We have done our best to answer all of your frequently asked questions here. Please contact us if you have any further concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org
- What is the decision regarding police participation at Pride?
The Vancouver Police Department(VPD) has historically marched with the City Of Vancouver(COV) entry, not in a “police float” which is a common misconception. In 2016, the VPD was asked to remove their armoured vehicle from the Pride Parade. In 2017, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) decided to remove marked vehicles from police or law enforcement agencies, and sirens from any participating organization. The majority of police representatives marched in t-shirts, while a contingent no more than 20% of the unit marched in uniform. The VPS requested all departments from the COV walk in the Parade mixed together, rather than in blocks. For Pride 2018, the decision was made to have no uniforms, weapons, marked vehicles, or sirens.
- Why did you ban the police from coming?
The police have not been banned from coming. Police are free to continue to participate in the COV float, march with other groups, watch the Pride Parade, and attend our events.
- What about LGBTQAI2S+ officers?
We acknowledge that careers in law enforcement have been challenging due to historic and contemporary barriers for marginalized people. Police officers from marginalized groups have fought for the ability to be out and proud, and may feel disappointed by this decision. We invite LGBTQAI2S+ officers to continue participating in the Pride Parade out of uniform.
- I understand why people are upset about weapons, but why can’t police just wear their uniforms and not their weapons?
When in uniform, police are expected to be able to respond to an emergency. When VPS explored this as a possibility, we were informed that police officers are required to carry a weapon when in uniform.
- Why are you listening to BLM about something that impacts LGBTQAI2S+ communities?
The three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement are black women, two of whom are queer. From its inception, BLM has sought to create space for black women, queer, and transgender people in leadership positions. BLM has worked to highlight the violence against black trans women in the United States and Canada. Black Lives Matter – Vancouver organizers are queer and trans and work to advance the rights of QTBIPOC people in Vancouver. BLM isn’t imposing an idea ON our communities, BLM fights for, and is part of our LGBTQAI2S+ communities.
- Why are you letting one group make a decision for everyone else/push you around?
One group has not made a decision. The issue of police in pride has been raised by activists throughout the years and is not a new topic of discussion. Black Lives Matter – Toronto brought the discussion into the public sphere through their activism at the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade. Black Lives Matter – Vancouver amplified that discussion locally. VPS consulted with hundreds of local organizations and individuals over a ten month period. VPS heard from many members of our local LGBTQAI2S+ communities that they do not feel comfortable around law enforcement. This decision is based on the feedback of many members of our communities, while centering the experiences of those most marginalized.
No one has “pushed” VPS into making a decision. This was an intentional decision made after listening to the community, considering all angles and carefully deliberating.
- Why should the police protect the Pride Parade for free if they aren’t allowed to march in uniform?
While some Pride Parades in the country receive free policing for their Pride Parades, the police do not work at the Vancouver Pride Parade for free. Policing is required by the city for our permitting, and we must pay for policing costs. Due to the civic status of the Pride Parade, VPS receives a discount of 75% on the first $50,000 of policing costs for the parade, and a 50% discount on the rest of the costs.
- Why should the police help [LGBTQAI2S+ people/BLM/the Vancouver Pride Society] if there is an emergency, if they can’t wear uniforms in the parade?
The protection of the police should not be contingent on wearing a uniform in the Pride Parade. Citizens in a free and functioning democracy should be able to criticize or question state power without fear of reprisal.
- What if [people/organizations] boycott the parade now? What if they are angry at LGBTQAI2S+ people and won’t be supportive anymore?
We respect and support all individuals and organizations right to partake in protest, including boycotting.
Support for LGBTQAI2S+ people and communities should not be contingent in any one group’s participation in a Pride Parade.
- Why didn’t you consult the community before making this decision?
VPS engaged in extensive consultation with the community before making this decision. An anonymous online survey was posted on our social media channels, and e-mailed to the groups VPS works with. Multiple in person consultations were held over a ten month period. Both surveys and consultations were published by local media. We collected information from phone calls, in person meetings, e-mails, and monitored social media. The information was collated into a report which you can read here. This information was then received by the board who carefully considered all angles before making a decision based on all the information received.
- Aren’t you just copycatting Toronto Pride?
After activists from Black Lives Matter – Toronto staged a sit-in during the 2016 Pride Parade, Pride Toronto agreed to remove uniformed police from the Pride Parade. This opened a public national discussion on police involvement in Pride Parades. Pride organizations across the country made different decisions to keep, remove, or alter police participation in Pride Parades. VPS made a decision after consulting the local community, not because a similar decision was made in a different city.
- What about the LGBTQAI2S+ activists who fought for police to be in the parade?
Part of VPS’s consultations with the public included hearing from community elders who had fought hard for police involvement in the Pride Parade. We heard about how police involvement in the Pride Parade was an intentional tactic by activists who wanted to humanize the community to law enforcement. This decision was made after years of oppression of LGBTQAI2S+ individuals by the police. It was thought that inviting law enforcement agencies to march with the community would be a public show of solidarity with and for us. This did not happen overnight, and was the work of many activists working tirelessly for years. We respect and acknowledge the hard work that was done by these community leaders.
We also acknowledge that while much of the work done by early activists improved police relationships for white lesbian and gays, it did not for the members of our communities who are trans, Indigenous, Black, POC, poor, homeless, engaged in sex work, and disabled. LGBTQAI2S+ peoples will not have true liberation until all members of our communities are free. While the tactics used by activists today may be different, we believe they continue in the same spirit of our elders in seeking equity for all.
- Why didn’t you make a public statement about this?
In the spirit of community building, VPS chose to speak first to the individuals and groups who have spoken out against police involvement. This has allowed us to have open conversations and answer any questions or concerns without the miscommunication that can come through communicating through open letters in the media. The news was broken publically after a member asked a question regarding police involvement at the 2017 AGM. At this time, we had not yet had the opportunity to have meetings with all affected groups and so had not made a public statement.
- What has VPS done and what are the next steps?
The VPS has listened to and been receptive to the concerns of our communities. After holding several community consultations, VPS facilitated a listening circle with the VPD and RCMP. This listening circle gave community members the opportunity to share their negative experiences with law enforcement in a mediated format. Due to community feedback, VPS has made and continues to make changes in the way we run our events, including having no sirens, enforcement vehicles, or uniformed law enforcement in the Pride Parade. We acknowledge that there have been times in our history in which the VPS has focused on the needs of cis white gay men, and we are actively working to overcome this.
The Vancouver Pride Society board and staff are committed to listening to the needs of our communities, being responsive, and working on lowering barriers to all of our events. We recognize how far our communities have come, but also, how far we have left to go. We can not do this alone. At the end of the day we are an events organization with limited capacity, and the Pride Parade is just one day of the year. Please help us make a difference, so that all members of our community can live freely.