Duelling Pride parade petitions launched
Latest effort wants officers welcomed
A new online petition is calling for Vancouver Pride Society to include the city’s police department and RCMP in its annual celebration of LGBTQ communities.
The push comes on the heels of another petition pushing the society in the opposite direction, calling police “an instrument of state violence and oppression” that the Pride movement was formed to protest against in 1969.
“Vancouver’s LGBTQ community has a long history of positive engagement with the Vancouver Police Department,” argued the Feb. 12 petition, launched by several LGBTQ community stalwarts and veterans, which garnered 1,258 signatories as of Tuesday midday.
One of that petition’s creators was transgender activist Velvet Steele, who told Metro she believes Pride can remain both a celebration and a protest — as long as there’s respect between opposing viewpoints.
“It’s important to keep everybody included in the negotiating process,” she said in a phone interview, “not to close the door in people’s faces.
Controversy last summer over whether Vancouver Pride Parade should include police floats and vehicles has re-ignited in the cold of winter, with the annual festival’s planners set to consider demands from Black Lives Matter Vancouver later this month.
“Pride parade will not be a safe space for many Black people and people of colour until (police) are removed from the parade,” stated BLM’s Feb. 7 petition, which had 679 signatures by Tuesday midday. Metro was unable to reach Black Lives Matter Vancouver organizers before deadline.
Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Randy Fincham said the force will “unless requested otherwise, have our volunteers and civilian and sworn staff walk with pride for our 21st year in the 2017 Vancouver Pride Parade, to show support for the entire LGBTQ2+ community,” he said in an email.
With BLM expected to meet Pride Society directors on Feb. 21, another of the pro-police petition’s creators said LGBTQ community veterans felt they needed to counter a “one-sided conversation” and show support for the VPD’s outreach and inclusion efforts.
Kevin Dale McKeown, Vancouver’s first out gay journalist who was the Georgia Straight’s gay columnist in the 1970s, said he “can’t speak to the relationship between the black community in Vancouver and the police,” but said that while he acknowledged “this is a big and serious issue that’s not just historic but ongoing,” booting one group out over another was not the way to address it.
“Our hope is that the Pride Society will, after due consideration, decide our relationship with the VPD and the RCMP is such that we do welcome them in our parade,” he said. “I hope that the Pride directors are able to find a positive way to engage.”
Controversy sparked by Black Lives Matter over VPD’s participation in the Pride parade has resurfaced. The latest petition wants police welcomed.