Pride London: Support grows, but protests persist

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After 10 days, Pride London wraps up Sunday and caps its celebration with its marquee event: the festival-ending parade.

The 23rd annual Pride Parade starts at 12:30 p.m. and will take over Ontario Street, Wellington Street and Queens Avenue for as long as three hours.

“While a lot of our events are open to everyone, they’re obviously targeted at certain segments of the LGBT population,” said Chad Callander, Pride London vice-president and parade co-ordinator.

“I think the parade is really exciting because it’s the entire community and the entire city really coming together and recognizing how important ­diversity is in our community.”

Suzanne Couture, a pioneer and longtime leader in London’s LGBT community, will march as the ­parade’s grand marshal.

In one of Pride London’s first parades, Couture sprinkled glitter known as fairy dust outside of then-mayor Dianne Haskett’s house after she refused to issue a gay pride proclamation on behalf of the city.

Callander expects more than 25,000 supporters will line London streets for the colourful procession this Sunday, but won’t be surprised to see protesters as well.

“I still see protesters every single year holding up signs, still to this day, unfortunately,” said ­Callander.

He said protesters used to march alongside the parade, sporting ­anti-Pride shirts and chanting anti-LGBT messages, but those actions have subsided as support for the parade has grown over the years.

This year’s Pride hasn’t been trouble-free. At one Old South house, a Pride flag on display had holes burned in it. Callander said Pride organizers have been alerted to multiple instances of anti-­LGBT comments being made outside Pride events, and one person who said they were assaulted outside an event.

“(The number of protesters) is getting smaller, but every single year, there’s usually a few of them,” said Callander.

London Pride’s seven organizers will be assisted by 30 volunteers at the parade, who will guide 120 floats from start to finish. The floats represent mostly local organizations and community groups.

London police will provide security at the parade.

There has been controversy surrounding local police forces marching in Pride celebrations around the world since Black Lives Matter halted Toronto Pride’s 2016 parade and demanded that police no longer be allowed to participate in uniform. Toronto police did not enter a float in the city’s 2017 parade.

“We want to work with police to make our community better” said Callander.

“You don’t get inclusion by ­exclusion.”

London police will march in this year’s London Pride parade.

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