On Sept. 20, the Sackville Pride parade opened with speeches, a flag raising and a march led by a police car with emergency lights spinning. Although this Pride parade took place over two weeks ago, the conversation about the events is ongoing.
First, it must be clarified that this article in no way intends to undermine the work of the students, faculty and town members who organized this year’s Pride parade. However, some community members have raised concerns about the presence of a police car at the event and see this as an opportunity to think about specific interactions that are often taken for granted by privileged members of society.
“For so many reasons, it’s just not appropriate anymore to have police presence at any queer event. They don’t protect us, and their presence is traumatic to a lot of people and symbolically unacceptable,” said Tasia Alexopoulous, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Mount Allison and attendee of the parade.
“It’s not to say that every cop is a bad cop, but when we look at the institution of policing right now, we are starting to see, in fact, that there are not as many good cops as we think there are…there is something in the institution that does not allow good cops to do good,” Alexopoulous said. “We can’t individualize the problem.We have to look at the bigger issue.”
Some argue that with the presence of police, the parade lacked a critical awareness of the institutional problems that are being demonstrated across North America. Pride is intended to be a physical manifestation of taking back the space that often excludes LGBTQA+ members.
SHARE intern Shannon Power assisted in organizing Pride week and was unaware that police would be leading the parade.
“It makes me feel uncomfortable because so many marginalized communities and LGBTQA+ people don’t feel safe around police. They have reason not to trust the police…not the Sackville police specifically, but police as an institution across the country,” Power said.
“I had six volunteers that blocked off the smaller side streets and that was fine. It’s Sackville…you don’t need a major police presence at our pride parade,” Power said.
“I figured [police presence] was just standard practice….any [Pride] parade I’ve ever been to is usually led by police,” said Mt. A Students’ Union President Ryan LeBreton.
“I won’t be around to plan it next year…but it is definitely a conversation that I think the town would be fine to have,” LeBreton said. He later added that he would be happy to pass the information along to the next organizers.
Lack of communication and a missed opportunity for a critical conversation about the parade’s organization resulted in a space that some feel lacked internal safety.
“We have to ‘queer’ the issue and ask the question[s], ‘what does it mean to be a queer community? What does it mean to have Pride? Does it mean that we follow a cop car to City Hall with its lights pinned and completely ignore all of the social justice issues that are implicated in that?’” Alexopoulous said.
These are questions that will continue to be asked and will possibly be reflected in the planning of next year’s parade.