On June 12, in response to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida, Pride Toronto announced plans to increase security and the police and RMCP presence at their 2016 pride events. At the Toronto Queer Film Festival, we abhor the notion that increased policing brings “safety” to our communities.
The Stonewall riots in 1969 and the riots following the bathhouse raids in Toronto in 1981 were protests against police and state violence. As Christina Hanhardt (who appears in our closing night film Pride Denied) chronicles in her book Safe Space: what many call “progress,” in terms of the creation of “safe spaces” for LGBT people over the last 30-40 years, has actually been marked by a shift in how mostly privileged LGBT people (in terms of race, class, and gender etc.) have come to demand that they are deserving of police protection rather than being the targets of police violence.
This shift has produced a wide gap in experiences for LGBT people. While some LGBT folks feel heartened and protected by increased police presence, many queer and trans folks who have not benefited from “single issue” political narratives of sexual freedom are not, as they still experience being targets of police harassment and violence because of their race, class, gender, abilities, and more.
Thus, while some are made to feel “safe” by calls for increased policing and security, the Toronto Queer Film Festival recognizes that this will mean even more harassment and violence for so many of us and our friends, lovers, allies, and neighbors. Such policies also clearly articulate to many of us who is really welcome at Pride Toronto events and spaces, and who isn’t.
Today, rather than standing with all people – largely people of color and poor people – who continue to face unabated and relentless police violence, mainstream organizations like Pride Toronto welcome police into their parades, events, and other spaces with open arms. For years now Pride Toronto, the 519, and other institutionalized LGBT organizations have encouraged and benefited from police sweeps in the downtown eastside that target people color, poor people, people who are underhoused or homeless, and sex workers – queer & trans and straight folks alike.
This mocks not only the queer and trans history of resisting police violence from which pride events, and Pride Toronto itself, originally emerged. It fails to take seriously the work and message of the very people that Pride Toronto have invited to be grand marshals this year: the activists at Black Lives Matter.
Our hearts go out to all those affected by the violence in Orlando. But our hearts also go out to all those in our communities who have and continue to affected by homophobic and transphobic violence in all forms, as well as all those who are still routinely subject to police and state violence. We object vociferously to those who would use this violence to call for more policing and prisons, when the fact is that police and prisons do the most harm to our communities by far.
To take up once again the slogan from the bathhouse raids riots 1981: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Join us at the Toronto Queer Film Festival to discuss these issues and more in our opening and closing night programs. #shame #noprideinpolicing #notinourname