No Police in Pride! Open letter to Victoria Pride Society by alt pride

RE: Police in Pride

ATTN: Victoria Pride Society

January 22nd, 2019

The following is an official statement by alt pride to Victoria Pride Society (VPS) calling for VPS to end police involvement in the Victoria Pride Parade, to hold community consultations on the involvement of police in Pride throughout 2019, and to develop meaningful lasting relationships with local marginalized communities. For a full list of requested actions, please continue reading.

We open this letter with an acknowledgement of the territories; alt pride events are organized and hosted on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Lkwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. We want to encourage the Victoria Pride Society (VPS) to go beyond empty land acknowledgements and do the work of building relationships with those whose land you live on. Part of this work is addressing the fact that there is historical and ongoing police/RCMP violence against Indigenous people. This demands that VPS recognizes the harm in having police in pride.

We, the organizers of alt pride, are writing this letter as people who experience many forms of marginalization. We are tired and our capacity is low, many of us are physically disabled/crip/chronically ill/mentally ill and/or neurodivergent. We share this because we expect that people will wonder why this letter is coming out so far after Victoria Pride Society’s statement on police involvement in the Pride Parade..

We were prompted to return to this letter following Victoria Pride Society’s recent online recognition of several community organizations who work with our most vulnerable people. The communities that Victoria Pride Society cited as most vulnerable are those most affected by policing and most likely to experience violence at the hands of the police. We do not believe the VPS can claim meaningful relationships with vulnerable communities while continuing to welcome police involvement in their events.

We were further compelled to release this letter following Victoria Pride Society’s inaction on the topic over the past year. The community consultations that were promised at the Annual General Meeting in 2017 never happened, and the topic of police involvement in Pride was not on the agenda for the Annual General Meeting held in November 2018.

Today, January 22nd, is Trans Prisoner Day of Action and Solidarity. We publish today in solidarity with those in our communities who are behind bars, and to continue to fight against police, policing, and prisons being naturalized in queer spaces.

Calls to Action: Victoria Pride Society

•  We call upon Victoria Pride Society to stop allowing police and RCMP participation in their events, including parade and festival entrants.

•  We call upon Victoria Pride Society to work with organizations that support our most marginalized community members such as the Indigenous Perspectives Society, the Anti-Violence Project, the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, the Vancouver Island People Living With AIDS Society, Communities Against Criminalization, AIDS Vancouver Island, and PEERS to do in-depth consultation about how to better serve vulnerable members of LGBTQ2IA+ communities.

•  We call upon Victoria Pride Society to publicly acknowledge that police violence against our communities is both a contemporary and a historic issue.

•  We call upon Victoria Pride Society to prioritize building meaningful relationships with local Indigenous communities, as determined by local Indigenous people.

Calls to Action: Community Members and Organizations

•  We call upon community members and organizations to put additional pressure on Victoria Pride Society to stop allowing police and RCMP participation in their events, including parade and festival entrants.

We call upon community organizations to refuse to participate in future events that celebrate policing and prisons.

•  We support the many marginalized people who attend the parade as an act of resistance and to increase representation for their communities; we see you.

•  We encourage community members and organizations to support initiatives that defund policing.

• We encourage community members who have capacity to help educate the public about why police are not friends to LGBTQ2IA+ communities.

How Police Continue to Perpetuate Violence Against and Fail to Protect LGBTQ2IA+ Communities

Police forces across Turtle Island (North America) have had half a century to correct their abusive behaviour towards LGBTQ2IA+ people just since the initial Stonewall Riots, yet they are still failing our most vulnerable and marginalized community members. Police have never been allies. Marching in a parade does not make them allies.

Some of the Ways Police Fail Us and Perpetuate Violence Include:

• The over-policing of disabled people through putting cops on mental health and crisis response teams, often leading to arrests and forced medication

• The disproportionate level of suspicion and law enforcement levied against racialized and Indigenous people

• The failure to provide support to victims of sexual assault and hate crimes

• The lack of support for LGBTQ2IA+ victims of domestic violence, especially if the relationship is not heteronormative

• The harassment and violence against homeless people, people living in tent cities, and other non-state-sanctioned communities.

• The continued criminalization of the public health issue of drug addiction, leading to people dying instead of seeking help when needed

• The harassment, exclusion, and oppression experienced by marginalized officers perpetuated by their peers and leadership in police forces

• The prison-industrial complex (a term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social, and political problems), which disproportionately incarcerates Indigenous people, black people, and people of colour in Canada.

• The violence inflicted upon sex workers through programs such as Operation Northern Spotlight and Bill C-36

• The school to prison pipeline that ushers youth from underfunded and lower class public schools into juvenile detention centers and prisons; specifically affecting youth of colour.

• Being complicit and often aiding in the violation of Indigenous land rights by developers, corporations, and the state

• Being complicit in and often aiding in the state separating Indigenous children from their families at a wildly disproportionate rates

Our Objections to Victoria Pride Society’s Decisions Regarding Cops in Pride

The mission statement of Victoria Pride Society is “To inspire full inclusion within the Pride Community and society at large through visibility, collaboration, ongoing conversation, and celebration.” The decision to keep the cops at pride does not align with the VPS mission. The VPS fails its own mission of full inclusion when it turns away people who cannot and will not march alongside systemically-empowered abusers. Pride started as a resistance to policing and a celebration of our marginalized communities. When Pride becomes centred around pleasing only the most privileged members of LGBTQ2IA+ communities, it has lost its way.

VPS’ open letter about cops in pride falsely insinuated that police violence against members of LGBTQ2IA+ communities is a thing of the past. Police and state violence against the most vulnerable members of our communities is ongoing.

Welcoming the police to march with our communities in the Pride Parade awards the police unearned positive PR. It tells the public that the police have a good relationship with our communities and erases the experiences of marginalized community members who still deal with police violence daily. It reinforces the myth that police are “friends”, always to be automatically trusted and obeyed.

What is alt pride?

alt pride is a volunteer-organized group that coordinates and hosts events which centre the voices, identities, and experiences of those largely left out of mainstream pride movements including trans women and trans-feminine people, genderqueer, gender-variant, and gender non-conforming people; 2-Spirit people, trans people, disabled people, neurodivergent people, fat people, poz people (HIV/AIDS), people of colour, and sex workers.

Pride is political. alt pride is committed to remaining political in our decisions and actions. Our events are prioritized to be accessible as possible: everything we do is all-ages, family-friendly, not-centered around drug or alcohol use, free or by-donation (no one turned away), and physically accessible.

alt pride actively works against replicating systemic oppressions, colonialism, settler-colonialism, and racism in our organizing on the unceded ancestral territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. alt pride believes in a future without police, without the policing of people and communities, and without prisons. We believe in community accountability and transformative justice.

The pride movement grew out of the Stonewall Riots  in June 1969 in the Greenwich Village are of New York City, which sits on Lenape land. Those riots happened because of police brutality against queer and trans people. The Stonewall Riots were lead by trans and queer people of colour, particularly black and latina trans women and trans feminine of colour and sex workers. Tkaronto (Toronto), where Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) and Indigenous communities have been doing meaningful work to keep cops out of pride today, was historically where cops raided gay bathhouses up until 1981. In the following 49 years since Stonewall, queer and trans activists have worked tirelessly to gain rights and safety for our communities. Many of these activists have been among the most marginalized in society. They have put their lives on the line, and continue to do so, for the liberation of our communities.

alt pride acknowledges the work of those who came before us, and those who are working today throughout the world. To everyone fighting for our communities and advocating against the celebration of police in pride; we witness, support, and acknowledge you. We are grateful for your work.

We can celebrate the resiliency, strength and survival of our communities without welcoming abusive institutions to our community events. The power of community is immense, and if VPS directed its influence towards actively including those on the margins, it could do incredible good for us all. As it stands, Victoria Pride Society has shown their unwillingness to do the hard work of listening and making decisions that ensure full inclusion of LGBTQ2IA+ communities.

Further Readings

Vancouver Island PWA Society statement: “VPWAS at Pride; Honouring the History of Pride as Protest”

Communities Against Criminalization statement

The Volcano: “Beyond the Razor Wire: The Culture of the Prison Industrial Complex”

The Volcano: “Fighting Police Power Across Turtle Island: Lessons from Oakland’s Anti Police-Terror Project

Black Lives Matter Vancouver: “Open Letter To Vancouver Pride Pride Society and The Vancouver Police Department From Black Lives Matter Vancouver”

The Star: “Police, military to be blocked from future parades after protestors interrupt Edmonton pride festival march”

Medium: “Prison Abolition in Canada: Rejecting Incarceration Historical Revisionism”

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