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Is Pride even a protest?

Samantha Connolly

June 23, 2018

Toronto pride emerged out of the mass protests that followed the 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids. Pride is historically a political event celebrating queer identities and bringing attention to current issues facing the queer community. But sadly, if you’re planning to attend this year – and participate in the drinks on the go program – be prepared to pay and submit to random ID and bag checks. 

This year Toronto pride has introduced the ‘drinks on the go’ program, which allows you to open carry alcohol purchased from a vendor at the event. However, the wristbands cost $10 a day or $25 for the weekend, on top of the price of alcohol. This is an inaccessible and exclusionary price for many in the queer community and appears to simply be a cash grab on the part of Toronto Pride. Additionally, when purchasing the wristband, you’ll also be asked to sign a long list of terms and conditions.

Policing Pride

Be prepared to show government issued photo ID (driver’s licence and passport only) and have your bag searched upon entering the event, and that, "Security guards may search any persons and property on the Event site at any time." Large backpacks, umbrellas, frisbees, any over the counter medication, or improperly labelled prescription medication may be confiscated and will never be returned.

Many queer folks, particularly those whose gender expression may not ‘match’ the sex on their ID, are at increased risk of being hassled, searched, and potentially expelled from the event. Additionally, these stop and frisk conditions are likely to disproportionately affect queers of colour attending the event. Wearing something that may “obstruct your face” can get your removed from the event. This clause could be used to legitimize Islamophobic behaviour by security. 

Most hypocritical is the clause preventing protest itself. Trying to “Disturb the peace, demonstrate an intent to disturb the peace or provoke someone else to do so”, in other words - having a political protest, will get you removed from the event!

Finally, if you are targeted or mistreated by security, you’ve let Toronto Pride off the hook, signing that "You hereby waive, discharge, hold harmless and covenant not to sue Pride Toronto and its parties from any and all liability arising out of, or in connection with, the Event, for any claims, causes of action, obligations, lawsuits, charges, complaints, controversies, damages, costs or experiences of whatsoever kind, nature, or description, whether direct or indirect, in law or in equity, in contract or in tort, or otherwise, whether known or unknown, arising out of, or related to, the Event, Your attendance at the Event, or Your travel to and from the Event, except to the extent caused by the gross negligence or willful misconduct of Pride Toronto and its Parties".

Pride is political

Pride is a political event, about confronting systemic discrimination, which needs to be accessible to the entire queer community. It was for this reason that Black Lives Matter-Toronto halted the Pride Parade in 2016 with a list of demands to make Pride a more inclusive and safe space for the entire queer community. As Pride Toronto Grand Marshal Vivek Shraya explained at the time, “The only reason we get to have a giant gay parade in 2016 is because of protests by black, indigenous and trans and queer people of colour decades ago, not unlike Black Lives Matter’s protest this weekend.” Pride agreed to the demands, including banning uniformed police from marching in the parade last year.

But this new program pushes out gender non-conforming people, queers of colour, and low-income queer people, while delegitimizing the act of protest itself. So, enjoy your drinks at Pride, if you’re white, wealthy, and cisgender.

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