Old Strathcona was packed with people Saturday, as the Pride Parade officially kicked off this year’s Edmonton Pride Festival.
The parade includes floats from local sports teams, politicians, community groups, businesses and law enforcement.
“The amount of people here… it’s crazy,” said Cole Pickett. “It’s way different from anything that I’ve experienced. It’s really nice to see.”
For one group of young people, it was their first time at Edmonton’s Pride Parade.
“It’s just a really nice way to celebrate and support everyone… It’s really fun too,” one girl said.
“We came to support our friends and be with people who are like us,” her friend added.
Kevin Quail is a retired police officer who now plays for the Edmonton Police Service pipes and drums.
“This parade is, hands down, the most energetic, fun parade I’ve ever been in,” he said.
It was sunny and warm at the start of the parade but some clouds and light showers rolled in shortly after it began.
The parade was also halted for about 20 minutes when a group of demonstrators presented some demands to the Pride Society.
The group — which did not affiliate itself with any one organization — described itself as “a number of queer and trans people of colour and their allies.”
“A group of people of colour, trans and queer folks and their allies briefly held up the parade to bring more awareness to the fact that the Pride Society had unfortunately asked a lot of people of colour to march as marshals in the parade — which was great — but then when those folks brought their demands and their needs for their own safety to have the police and military, etc. not walk in the parade, those requests were ignored not once but twice,” spokesperson Alexis Hillyard said.
“This was the necessary action to have further productive dialogue.”
This is the list of demands the demonstrators presented to the Pride Society:
- That the Pride Society uninvite the Edmonton Police Service, RCMP and military from marching in future parades.
- That the society restructure its board and staff hiring practices to have more representation from people of colour and trans folks.
- That more well-funded spaces specifically designed for people of colour and trans folks be included in festival.
- That all mainstream Pride spaces clearly acknowledge and honour pride’s history as a demonstration against police oppression.
Hillyard told a Global News reporter that the Pride Society had agreed to meet the demonstrators’ demands before the parade continued.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the Pride Society said board representatives met with the demonstrators, forwarded their demands to the rest of the Edmonton Pride Festival Society Board of Directors and, after discussion, a motion was put forward to accept the demands.
“The Edmonton Pride Festival Society is in agreement with each of the demands presented,” the society said in a news release shared later Saturday afternoon.
“EPS, RCMP and military will not march in the parade until the community feels that they have taken the necessary steps for all community members to feel safe with their presence.”
The board will also hold community consultations to determine how to move forward with these demands and “to determine how the Edmonton Pride Festival Society can best support all communities suffering from systemic racism and oppression.”
The society also thanked the demonstrators for their courage and for remaining peaceful and respectful.