2 arrested after disturbance at southern Alberta Pride event

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2 arrested after disturbance at southern Alberta Pride event
It was meant to be a celebration of diversity, but this weekend's Pride celebration in Fort Macleod was the target of several protests, one of which is now under investigation by police. Sarah Jones reports. – Aug 28, 2023

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article’s title has been changed to correct the type of disturbance that took place.

An evening Pride event at the historic Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod, Alta., was interrupted on Saturday night by a targeted attack, — what some are calling a hate crime.

“It is clear to us that the hate directed towards our community has been escalating,” said Jane O’Connor, a member of the Fort Macleod Pride Society.

At the start of the day, the fourth annual Pride in the Park was met with hundreds of supporters from across the province but for the first time, the event was also met with a handful of protesters.

Iris Krosse, a Pride attendee, said that when she arrived there was already a large police presence on scene and said that it was reassuring to know that RCMP were there to keep everyone safe.

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“A good protest is always welcome. Pride is a protest. So, it’s not like: ‘No, you can’t be here, you don’t have a voice.’ You’re allowed to be here; you too have a voice, just like we have a voice,” said Krosse after they invited protesters to stay for the flag raising.

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“You know, during the flag raising there was some heckling going on and some videos but that didn’t damper our spirts, we continued.”

Following the daytime events, the Empress Theatre was rented by the Pride Society to host a drag show.

Attendees say just 10 minutes into the performance, a foul-smelling odour began emanating from the back of the theatre.

According to Empress Theatre Board member Stasha Donahue, a group of youths purchased tickets to the show and dumped an unknown substance onto the carpet of the theatre.

RCMP confirmed that the liquid used to stink out the building was fisher and marten lure oil, which caused considerable damage to the Empress, forcing it to close until further notice.

“This feels like an unwarranted attack on the community,” said Donahue. “This is one of our gems, not just in Fort Macleod but in southern Alberta.”

Police arrested two suspects fleeing the scene and say the incident is still under investigation and it’s too early to comment on whether charges will be pursued against the youths.

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The protests didn’t stop there.

“We’re heartbroken to hear and see the vandalism at the Empress Theatre, it’s a historic building that we all love and it’s just so terrible,” O’Connor said. “We’re also devastated to see that the flagpole in the park has been sawed down and our flag was burned.”

All that remains of the flagpole beside the Fort Macleod spray park is a jagged piece of metal protruding from the ground.

Another attendee at the Pride event said that the actions of those in town are scary.

“It basically feels like we’re getting run out of town,” said Tel Sillito. “I am a queer person in this community, and I’ve spent most of my life hiding and doing what I could to not look queer or act queer and just blend in. It’s just really (nasty) when you live here. I could leave and go somewhere else, but my family is here, I do have friends here. This is my community.”

The Town of Fort Macleod has condemned the protesters’ actions and is set to address the issue further during Monday night’s council meeting.

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