Toronto is set to celebrate Pride in the usual way — a street fair, a host of celebratory events, and a massive parade — but this year, there’s a threat hanging over the festivities.
Throughout the month of June, members of the LGBTQ community have watched other cities’ Pride festivities disrupted by far-right groups, including an altercation involving anti-gay religious groups and yellow-vested populist protesters in Hamilton, a city approximately an hour’s drive from Toronto.
Members of the Pride Hamilton board of directors have publicly stated that the altercations at their events were instigated by “religious leaders from the United States and Canada.” Christin Milloy, a member of Pride Toronto’s board of directors, says they’ve received threats. A Facebook video featuring Yellow Vest supporters promises that “the same crew that was in Hamilton is gonna be in Toronto.”
In the early days of June, Toronto Police arrested street preacher David Lynn for disturbing the peace after his exhortations about sin and salvation, amplified by a portable microphone, drew a crowd at the corner of Church Street and Wellesley Street East, the heart of Toronto’s Gay Village.
Pride weekend started off safely this past Friday with the annual Trans March. Still, the danger is real enough that local community group The 519 is handing out “mobilization kits” to members of the parade-going public. Stocked with banners, noisemakers, and information on how to report an altercation, the kits are meant to provide community members with tools to peacefully counter-protest any hostile messages aimed at revellers:
We encourage community members to refrain from engaging in any physical violence or dialogue with members of hate groups… Peacefully disrupt anti-LGBTQ2S rhetoric through amplified messages of affirmation for queer, trans, and two-spirit communities! Use the noisemakers to drown out the hate! Use the signs and banners to block out hateful messaging! Watch out for each other!
Emphasis has been placed on the same kind of non-violent resistance members of Toronto’s queer community showed in response to Lynn’s preaching: blocking out the sights and sounds of hate and intolerance — religious or otherwise — using flags, noisemakers, and signs emblazoned with messages of love and support.
For Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah, the threat of hate and potentially even violence is no reason to halt the celebration:
To be honest with you, every year this is a threat. It’s a heightened threat now only because seemingly in the last couple of years, we kind of live in a political and social context that gives it permission to rise to the surface.
No matter where you’re attending Pride festivities, stay safe, don’t engage with haters trying to bait you, and remember that a message of love and acceptance is always more compelling than one of hate and bigotry.
(Screenshot via Global News)