Activists hold 'Abolitionist Pride' march to call for dismantling of police and prisons

·3 min read
The No Pride in Policing Coalition gathered at Nathan Phillips Square at 11 a.m. for an event it called 'Abolitionist Pride,' then marched to various sites that the coalition says represent queer and trans oppression. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC - image credit)
The No Pride in Policing Coalition gathered at Nathan Phillips Square at 11 a.m. for an event it called 'Abolitionist Pride,' then marched to various sites that the coalition says represent queer and trans oppression. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC - image credit)

About 500 people marched in downtown Toronto before the Pride parade on Sunday to call for the abolition of police and the prison system in Ontario.

The No Pride in Policing Coalition gathered at Nathan Phillips Square at 11 a.m. for an event it called "Abolitionist Pride," then marched to various sites that the coalition says represent queer and trans oppression.

An online poster for the event said demonstrators were "reclaiming our radical histories and creating liveable futures without police and prisons."

The march began outside Toronto city hall, then proceeded to the Ontario legislature and got close to Toronto police headquarters. But organizers said police would not let demonstrators go farther than Bay and College streets.

"We must defund, we must demilitarize, we must abolish," Beverly Bain, a coalition organizer, said during the march.

"We need to defund police, we need to reallocate those funds to communities to create sustainable communities, we need to abolish police and prisons and we need to start creating a community and a society without harm."

The marchers also stopped in front of the U.S. consulate to show support for women who will be affected by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which provided the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. for nearly 50 years.

Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC
Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC

Bain said the coalition is critical of Pride Toronto's decision to ask for more police protection during its parade. She said LGBTQ people are "under siege" by police.

"This is not the kind of protection that queer and trans people are looking for. Police do not protect us. They are not in our corner," she said.

Bain noted the coalition rejected a recent apology by Toronto Police Chief James Ramer in response to the service's treatment of racialized people. She said the apology was an empty performance.

Ramer made the apology when the service released race-based data that shows Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by use of force and strip searches by Toronto police officers.

Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC
Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC

Gary Kinsman, an organizer of the No Pride in Policing coalition, said the march was an abolitionist pride march, which means the coalition wants to see police services and prisons disarmed, defunded and dismantled.

"It's absolutely crucial that the trans and queer liberation movements adopt an abolitionist project and that's why we are organizing this event today to protest the escalation of police violence and racism in our city," Kinsman said.

Kinsman said Pride Toronto has become a highly commercialized organization, dominated by corporations, that produces a parade that is largely a spectacle for heterosexual people and it doesn't advance the goals of queer and trans liberation movements.

"This is not what queer and trans liberation is all about," he said.

The No Pride In Policing Coalition defines itself as a group of queer and trans people formed in 2018 to support the demands raised by Black Lives Matter TO at the 2016 Pride Toronto parade. It said it supports BLM TO in its demand for a 50 per cent cut to the Toronto police budget.