Victoria’s Alt Pride organization is calling on the Victoria Pride Society (VPS) to remove police involvement from the 26th pride parade.
In an official statement posted on Facebook, the group said it would like to see VPS hold community consultations on police involvement and develop “meaningful, lasting relationships with local, marginalized communities.”
Police presence at Pride parades has been a topic of controversy around the country. Last year Calgary police were invited to the annual parade, but only in plain clothes.
In Toronto, uniformed police officers have been indefinitely barred from participating in the pride parade.
The following is an official statement by Alt Pride to Victoria Pride Society (@VictoriaPride) calling for VPS to end police involvement in the Victoria Pride Parade.— Alt Pride (@AltPrideFest) January 23, 2019
For a full list of requested actions, please click on the link below.https://t.co/39yH6TTTnQ
Police departments from Greater Victoria have been partnering with the parade for over a decade as participants in the yearly event.
In July, VPS adjusted police presence at the event, banning all six departments from wearing uniforms – except for Chiefs and LGBTQ2* officers – and allowing only one vintage police vehicle to be in attendance.
In its statement released Tuesday, Alt Pride said it was responding to a recent post by VPS acknowledging community organizations who work with vulnerable people in Victoria.
“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.”
Alt Pride asked VPS to stop allowing police and RCMP participation in all of its events and “publicly acknowledge that police violence against our communities is both a contemporary and a historic issue.”
According to Alt Pride’s Facebook page, the volunteer-based organization “coordinates and hosts events which centre the voices, identities and experiences of those largely left out of mainstream pride movements…”
It acknowledged the time gap in its response to the VPS’s July decision on police involvement.
“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..”
When asked for a response to Alt Pride’s statement, Victoria Police chief Del Manak told Black Press there are misperceptions about the police department’s role in the community.
“The police today are community members [and] community leaders. We are engaged…enforcement is only a small portion of what the police do,” he said. “Many members of our police department are from the LGBTQ2* community. Our police department is made up of members of every community.”
“We’re actually a part of the solution, we’re a part of the community and for people to say that police are policing poverty or [that] we’re scaring people away, is actually not an accurate statement.”
VPS has not issued an official response to the call from Alt Pride but told Black Press the statement was on its radar and it would be addressing the topic at an upcoming meeting.
Alt Pride has not yet returned requests for interview. More to come.