Filed under: Action, Quebec, Queer, Trans
Report from Montreal on how autonomous Pride celebrations took place in the face of the official parade being cancelled. Originally posted to Montreal Counter-Info.
At around 9am on Sunday, August 7th, Fierté Montréal informed the public via Twitter that they were cancelling the pride parade. While they initially claimed that there had been an impasse between organizers and the SPVM on questions of ‘security’ following early-morning negotiations, Fierté later retracted that statement, assuring the public that the SPVM had nothing to do with the decision. The current media line coming out of Fierté seems to be that the person responsible for making sure there were enough volunteers on the ground to block off the streets simply ‘forgot’ to do exactly that.
There is something surreal about the speed with which these stories are changing. It should anger us that Fierté can’t give us a straightforward, honest answer. Did they or did they not meet with the cops Sunday morning? What happened between the time they publicly announced that negotiations with the cops had led to an impasse and the time they retracted their statement to assure the public that the decision was, in fact, theirs and theirs alone? Why did Gamache later feel such a need to stress, publicly, how great the SPVM has been? The less said about the narrative according to which someone at Fierté simply ‘forgot’ to come up with 80 volunteers, the better. Why is it that they can’t speak to us plainly?
Angered by the decision to cancel the Parade, queers on social media called for the community to meet at Place Émilie-Gamelin. A spontaneous demonstration, led by queers and anarchists on site, left the square, heading West on Sainte-Catherine Street. There were no paid staff or trained volunteers, but there was a banner, black marker on cardboard, “Queer liberation without authorisation”, and another, “Fuck le cis-tème”. Rather than private security, politicians, or corporate sponsors, we had anti-police chants. We’d like to think the latter put out the right energy, because when we doubled back past the square, the street rapidly filled with more people.
The march continued through the Village, growing in size as it went, and up to Sherbrooke street, where it headed west. The demo was so big that we could never see the back of it from the front; one participant estimates we were at least 40,000 people. Bike cops surveilling the march were overheard telling participants: ‘You really don’t know where you’re going, do you?’ True, but as always, the cops missed the point. Folks might not have known where they were going, but they sure as hell knew exactly what they were doing. Refusing police presence at the march and pushing back against the anti-queer police/security logic which led to the cancellation of the parade, folks chanted, ‘La fierté, sans sécurité’. After the march turned north on Saint-Laurent, folks started chanting ‘Tou.te.s, uni.e.s, contre l’homophobie’, later holding a minute of silence for the victims of HIV/AIDS. The march then headed south and from afar, marchers could see the SPVM’s riot squad gearing up to protect… its headquarters. The march ended at the Quartier des Spectacles, with folks taking advantage of the water-works and blending into the crowd. As the march came to an end, a jock-strap sporting twunk said, ‘You see, this what happens when you say no to the gays’. Indeed.
Earlier that day, the SPVM had taken to twitter to let us know that “like every year, we were ready to oversee the event and we will be there for every edition”. It would seem, however, that very few cops were there for this year’s edition. While the SPVM did have a few bike cops present for the march, it was unable to adequately block streets, outpaced by the spontaneity of the march, as marchers looked out for one another rather than relying on police to keep us safe. This is precisely the kind of scenario that Gamache feared when he made a statement discouraging Pride-goers from joining “disorganized” marches throughout the city. This year, however, neither Gamache nor the SPVM had anything to say about what took place. Let’s make sure it stays this way.
Photo: André Querry