Edmonton Pride parade blocked by protesters upset by police participation
Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, June 9, 2018 7:07PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 9, 2018 9:03PM EDT
Edmonton's annual Pride parade ground to a halt for more than half an hour on Saturday, when demonstrators upset that police officers were allowed to march in the event blocked its route.
The demonstrators handed out leaflets calling for the parade's organizers to uninvite city police, RCMP and military members from marching in future parades.
The leaflets also demanded the Edmonton Pride Festival Society "restructure its board and staff hiring practices to have more representation from people of colour and trans folks."
The society, the city's police and the RCMP announced last month that officers would take part in Saturday's parade along Whyte Ave., but would wear T-shirts instead of their uniforms.
One protester held a sign that said "Racism is a Queer Issue," but some spectators grew impatient with the demonstration and chanted "We want Pride!"
Alexis Hillyard, a spokeswoman for the protesters, says the parade resumed after Pride organizers agreed to their demands.
"Yes, people were grumpy that the parade was stopped and I understand that. But the parade got to continue and it was a beautiful parade," said Hillyard, who was participating in the parade as a marshal and then stopped to be in the protest.
"The Pride society listened and accepted and pledged to meet all of the requests, which is a really huge win for everyone because that just means safer participation for all people, not just a certain type of people," she added.
The society said in a statement late Saturday afternoon that it agreed with the demands, and that police and military members would not march in the parade "until the community feels that they have taken the necessary steps for all community members to feel safe with their presence."
The decision to allow police officers to march, but not in uniform, followed meetings between the society, city police and RCMP that were initiated after police vehicles were restricted from participating in the 2017 parade.
The society explained at the time that in many communities, police enforcement agencies were seen to make marginalized people feel unsafe.
A news release on behalf of the protesters said that people of colour were invited to be parade marshals, but that when those marshals raised concerns about police participation in the parade, their concerns were repeatedly ignored.
"The Edmonton Pride Festival Society views people of colour as decorations, to be seen and not heard," the release stated.
The demonstrators included in their demands that "mainstream Pride spaces clearly acknowledge and honour Pride's history as a demonstration against police oppression," and that "more well-funded spaces specifically designed for people of colour and trans folks be included in the festival."
The news release says all of the demands were met.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and members of her NDP caucus marched in the parade. The premier posted numerous photos and video from the event on Twitter and Facebook, but did not mention the delay.
The Edmonton Pride Festival Society said its board will hold community meetings to decide how to move forward with the demonstrators' demands, and how to support communities suffering from systemic racism and oppression.