- The Washington Times - Monday, July 4, 2016

A group of Black Lives Matter activists temporarily shut down Canada’s largest gay pride parade on Sunday, when they stopped marching until the parade organizers agreed to their demands.

BLM, which was invited to march in the gay-rights celebration as an honorary group, stopped two-thirds of the way down the parade route, began chanting “Shut it down!” and lit several flares.

The parade was stalled for about half an hour, until Toronto Pride Director Mathieu Chantelois, whose group puts on the parade, met with the protesters and signed off on the list of demands.

The demands included an end to police floats at the parade and more spots dedicated to groups representing queer people of color. The BLM demand sheet said Pride Toronto had engaged in “anti-Black racism” by reducing the visibility of gay people of color in the march.

Mike McCormack, who heads the Toronto police union, said Pride organizers should be ashamed of themselves for agreeing to the ban on police representation in the march.

“Shame on Pride organizers,” Mr. McCormack tweeted on Sunday.

Pride Toronto said it had no prior notice of BLM’s intentions.

“During the parade, BLM-TO started a conversation with us to explore how we can create an even more inclusive and safe festival,” Pride Toronto said in a statement. “We, like BLM-TO, have a commitment to ensure our most marginalized communities feel safe and welcome at the festival.”

Alexandria Williams, co-founder of BLM-Toronto, said the group had a “clear intention” to use its honorary status in the parade as a platform for a protest.

“When we accepted this year’s Honoured Group status from Pride Toronto, it was with the clear intention of using this platform to address what is a historical and current culture of anti-Blackness deeply embedded in the Festival,” Ms. Williams said in a statement. “If they truly want to honour us, they can accept these demands.”

Pride Toronto also agreed to hire a more diverse staff as a part of the demands, “prioritizing Black trans women, Indigenous folk, and others from vulnerable communities.”

BLM has not been afraid to protest groups generally friendly to their politics. The group notably shut down speeches from Democratic primary candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marched in the parade on Sunday, becoming the first sitting prime minister to do so.

The terrorist attack on Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was on the minds of marchers. The parade stopped briefly and held a moment of silence for the 49 victims of the attack, which was carried out by an assailant who pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State.

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