Black Lives Matter bring fight for racial justice to Vancouver Dyke March

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Led by Black Lives Matter-Vancouver, hundreds of people marched together from McSpadden Park to Grandview Park at the 13th Annual Dyke March in Vancouver on July 30.

In solidarity with Black Lives Matter chapters across the U.S. and in Toronto, BLM Vancouver is calling for a stronger intentional focus on Indigenous, people of colour, and Black communities, and for the police force to withdraw at future Pride parades. 

Instead of participating in Pride with a police-only float, BLM Vancouver proposed a general float for those who work in public service and wish to celebrate Pride.

On June 26, Black Lives Matter San Francisco, who withdrew from participating at Pride, released an official statement on police in pride parades. BLM cited the ongoing police violence against queer and transgender people of colour as the reason for bypassing Pride. 

"For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic and transphobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence. We had a tough decision to make, and ultimately we chose to keep our people safe by not participating in any event that would leave our communities vulnerable to either."

Last month, Black Lives Matter Toronto organized a sit-in at the city's Pride parade until a list of demands reflecting the needs of racialized queer communities and challenging anti-Black racism and police militarization were addressed.

BLM Vancouver released an open letter to the Vancouver Pride Society and the Vancouver Police Department on July 15 in solidarity with BLM TO and other BLM chapters.

The letter declares, "…we understand and support BLM-Toronto's reluctance towards having the police force, as it exists as an institution, involved as a prominent fixture in the parade. Having the Vancouver Police Department on the ground to perform a civil service is understandable. Having the institution participate on a float in the organized festivities of the actual parade is inappropriate and insulting to those who came before us to make Pride celebrations possible, some of who even died for the cause. Embracing the institution in an event that originates from protest against its actions makes us justifiably uncomfortable."

For racialized queer, two-spirited, and transgender people of colour, the presence of police often incites fear and trauma. 

The Stonewall riots, which was led by queer and trans people of colour and sparked the gay liberation movement, was a response to violent police raids.

In Canada, the LGBTQ community were victims of violent bathhouse police raids in Toronto in 1981 and at the Pussy Palace in 2000.

Since the release of their letter, BLM Vancouver has met with The Vancouver Pride Society to discuss inclusion of marginalized folk in the queer community and at future events. 

Although the Vancouver police were present and marched in the Pride parade this past Sunday, their Armoured Response Vehicle did not make an appearance in agreement with BLM Vancouver. 

For BLM Vancouver, this is a victory

At the Dyke March on Saturday, marchers danced, biked, and walked down Commercial Street to the festival at Grandview Park in celebration.

The crowd paused in the middle of the march for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando and the Black lives lost at the hands of police. A non-Black poet also performed a poem to express their solidarity. 

There was a basic police presence with a handful of officers on bikes maintaining traffic for marchers to pass through. 

At the festival at Grandview Park, Cicely-Belle Blain, co-founder of the BLM Vancouver chapter, took the stage to honour the Black and PoC queer lives lost in Orlando and police violence over the past year.

"It's really important for us to recognize that a lot of the communities that were affected by those incidents were racialized, a lot of them Latinx and Black folk, also a lot of the women who have being murdered in the United States but also in Canada through instances of police brutality. Often, their voices and their stories are completely silenced in the face of both racialized and gendered discrimination," noted Blain. 

BLM Vancouver member, Guy Noah also reminded the crowd of the Black lives on the frontlines fighting against racial injustice and police brutality.

"It's not over. No one is being held accountable and the accountability needs to be there. The conversation needs to be there," said Noah before leading the crowd in a Black Lives Matter chant.

"Black lives!" shouted Noah. "Matter!" the crowd echoed. 

Lenée is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Metro Vancouver. Follower her on Twitter @LeneeSon

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