When your police minions are accused, under your watch, of segregating the gays at G20 protests “for their own safety”, you should probably expect they won’t be your biggest fans. Which explains the uproar for Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, whose attempt to attend a Pride Week party — organized by the cops, and not the local queers — turned into a stand-off.
A 4:30pm cocktail appearance by Toronto police chief Bill Blair quickly became a heated standoff June 29. Organizers kept gay and trans people out of the 519 Community Centre auditorium for over two hours — and periodically ejected people from inside. For the first hour, those who were forbidden from entry stayed outside. Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands came out to speak to the crowds, which spilled onto the street. She reminded protesters that the event was organized by Toronto Police — not Pride Toronto — and said that they were dealing with capacity issues. She was heckled by people on the street. Later, organizers said that Pride Toronto was complicit in the “pinkwashing” of Toronto Police. 519 executive director Maura Lawless also spoke briefly, saying that she hoped to host a discussion between queers and cops soon. One protester shouted, “But we’re here now!”
Bill Blair arrived in a dark SUV around 5:30 to chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Police officers forcibly parted the crowd to make way for Blair to enter through the front door, where the protesters were. Two other doors stood empty and unlocked. After Blair went in, queers occupied the lobby. They chanted and shouted to disrupt the ceremony happening on the second floor.
And once safely inside, Blair continued stonewalling the very community he was there to support, or something.
He worked the room briefly as Rae and Elliott made speeches. As Blair was introduced and took position at the mic, one person in the crowd surged forward to challenge him about the conduct of Toronto Police over the past weekend. “My friends were arrested for no reason,” she called. Blair stood silently at the podium as she was gently escorted from the room by 519 staffers. It was a courageous, gut-wrenching moment.