There has been a lot written about this protest already, but it seems every article falls neatly into one of two categories – either the author is calling BLM Toronto a bunch of wanton criminals or unquestionable heroes. To be honest, I think most people actually fall somewhere in the middle, and don’t really know what to think.
So I’m here to offer the perspective of a hard core moderate that might help you with your own thoughts on this.
I believe in incremental change and working within the system. Coming from the Soviet Union, I am allergic to the word “revolution”. My first reaction to the protest was a sort of “oh no, they’ve gone and pissed off a whole lot of the wrong people for nothing.”
Then I thought about the Tamil protests in Ottawa and Toronto a few years ago. Back when the civil war was ongoing and Tamils were being killed indiscriminately. There’s a pretty massive contingent of Tamil folks in Canada (and Toronto especially) so they staged a series of actions which lasted MONTHS and culminated in 30,000 people holding a vigil at Parliament Hill. This is a serious number. They sat side by side holding hands all along the major routes, interrupting the chain only at intersections so they won’t disrupt traffic and lose potential allies. They really didn’t want to piss off the wrong people.
They got virtually zero news coverage. My father-in-law, who bussed out to the vigil in support of his own father-in-law (who had spent a year as a political prisoner in Sri Lanka) was totally gutted. No one cared. It was like it never happened.
Then a tiny fraction of that said screw it and disrupted the Gardiner. Oh shit, now they were on the cover of every damn newspaper! Suddenly politicians were showing up to their actions, discussing the situation in Parliament, etc. They’d been heard – finally.
And that brings me back to Sunday and Pride. Like I said, I believe in effecting change from the inside. But that change is nearly impossible without external pressure that us insiders can use to justify progress, and unfortunately, we live in a society that is so saturated with noise that it is nearly impossible to apply that external pressure without pissing people off.
So where I land, and hopefully this helps those of you out there still not sure where you land, is this. The folks behind Black Lives Matter are smart. I’ve attended some of their events and each time I am STUNNED by how well planned they are, how thoughtful and how impactful. I’ve also seen how little non-disruptive events accomplish.
Black Lives Matter gets shit done, and in doing so help those of us trying to get change codified something to point at and say – “See? Times are changing! This is NEEDED. We can’t get away with the stuff we’ve been doing.”
So no, I am not comfortable with their protest. At all. It’s weird and kind of gross and I feel icky about it. But I feel ickier about them having had to have it. I feel ickier about sending my husband to work knowing that some fucking rent-a-cop might pull a gun on him again because he’s too dark to be a lawyer so he must be a criminal out of bounds. I feel ickier about knowing that just looking at a queer person of colour likely makes them afraid, because I am white and cis and thus dangerous.
So if you’re really pissed about the protest at Pride, I heartily encourage you to join the cries for equality. Do something to help. People treated like human beings are much less likely to disrupt your party.