The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement brought the Toronto LGBT Pride Parade to a halt for 30 minutes in a protest that only ended after a list of demands was met.
— BlackLivesMatter TO (@BLM_TO) July 3, 2016
There was a lot of hubbub about this on social media last night. Conservatives saying “see how liberals eat their own!” Gay people talking about how terrible it is for BLM to be so rude and not show unity. People getting very bent out of shape.
So I did something that doesn’t seem to happen a lot on social media. Before I reacted, I read some local coverage of the event, and I reached out to friends of mine who attended Toronto Pride, and to BLM-Toronto. I politely asked them to give me some context, and some backstory, about what was going on.
This is what I’ve been able to gather from people who were actually involved. Black Lives Matter didn’t consult with the organizers of Toronto Pride ahead of time, because they wanted it to be a dramatic and confrontational display. However, the very liberal and open-minded organizers of Toronto Pride understood that, and didn’t really have a problem with BLM having their moment and their voice. The parade was paused for all of 30 minutes, and continued without any harm or damage done. In the end, nobody was really “outraged” except people who weren’t there.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter:
1) Gay Pride is literally a celebration and remembrance of a RIOT.
It’s a bit disingenuous to get all bent out of shape that an activist group would “disrupt” Gay Pride. It’s worth remembering from a historical context that disruptive activist groups are one of the key ingredients to getting things done in the world.
2) I am a moderate, but I don’t think everyone needs to be.
I’m a moderate person by disposition. I think the best change is incremental. I personally like working “within the system”, and think that it’s important to find ways to push for your rights in a manner that doesn’t alienate people. (This is why I’ve always supported Clinton over Sanders.)
But I also am a social realist and a student of history, so I simply cannot dismiss or ignore the importance of radical movements and radical moments for producing social change. A certain amount of radicalism seems to be needed from time to time for shit to get done — and even though I don’t like it personally, I cannot dismiss it as being “always bad” or unnecessary.
So how do I feel specifically about the actions of BLM in Toronto?
It’s not my style. I think it had an element bad optics, easily misinterpreted by people who weren’t there. I, personally, would have liked to see them approach the Pride event coordinators ahead of time–people who are very sympathetic and progressive!–to figure out how they could work together with a message of unit.
However… disruptive activism is how BLM rolls. And I’d be a pretty ignorant and terrible liberal to not acknowledge that there is value in that.