Toronto’s Pride celebrations get underway on Sunday afternoon. As thousands of Canadians will descend on the city to celebrate diversity, acceptance and to march in protest, Pride Toronto security has been heightened.
The Toronto event, which is one of the largest Pride festivities in North America, is usually an exciting but peaceful march, enabling people from LGBTQ+ communities and beyond to celebrate their individuality on the streets of Toronto. However, Pride Toronto organizers have now taken the decision to step up security at the city's event today, following a confrontation arising at another Pride celebration in the country.
2019’s Pride events will also mark the 50th anniversary of New York City’s Stonewall Riots, which are largely credited to be the birth of the gay rights movement. The demonstrations took place following a series of police raids on LGBT establishments in the city, including the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.
It was confirmed earlier this week by Pride Toronto executive director, Olivia Nuamah, that organizers and police will be stepping up security at the 2019 Toronto event. This decision was made after an altercation broke out at the Hamilton Pride festival last weekend, where several people ended up with minor injuries.
According to CBC News, the board of directors for Pride Hamilton said the protests that took place at their Pride celebrations were led by "religious leaders from the United States and Canada, who intentionally came to hatefully disrupt the event."
The executive director of Pride Toronto told CBC News that it was not uncommon for certain types of people to protest at Pride events. Despite this, Nuamah acknowledged that now the political rhetoric "has become much more heated" and this has opened up a space for anti-LGBT behaviours. For example, the Pride parade in Detroit earlier this month was marred by a group of protesters displaying swastikas, the Nazi symbol.
This, Nuamah says, is what makes the event so important, and why Pride should be called a protest rather than a celebration. "When people ask what is Pride and why we continue to call Pride a protest" Nuamah said. "There is a significant problem when it comes to full acceptance of the LGBTQ2+ community in Canada and all over the world."
One community centre in Toronto has created kits for LGBT+ communities who wanted to be prepared to face anti-LGTBQ demonstrators. The 519 community center is offering 'Mobilization Kits’ throughout Pride weekend to give people the tools to engage with peaceful disruptions of Pride protests.
The kits included noise-makers, banners with messages of love, information on how to report hateful activity and tips for coming in contact with anti-LGBT rhetoric.
To combat any potential protestors, both Pride Toronto and Toronto police have added extra security measures to ensure the event remains a safe space for everyone. Nuaamah said "Between the two of us we pretty much promise that our Pride will be a Pride that will not be infected with this disease."
Toronto’s Pride parade will begin at 2 p.m. at Church and Bloor streets and will continue across to Yonge Street, south on Yonge to Dundas Street and east on Dundas to Victoria Street. Tens of thousands of people are expected to march in the parade in Canada’s biggest city.