London, Ont. police to fly rainbow flag, despite Pride London request not to
LONDON, ONT. -- The London Police Service (LPS) says it will fly the rainbow flag during Pride London festivities this year, despite a request from the event's board of directors is asking them not to.
In a statement, LPS Chief Steve Williams said, "Together, we stand united in support of the greater LGBT2Q+ community. We acknowledge the request from Pride London Festival’s Board of Directors that the London Police Service refrain from flying the rainbow flag during this week’s Pride Festival, and we understand their reasons for it. While we take these concerns seriously, we also believe we owe it to our employees and the community to show our unwavering commitment to the LGBT2Q+, even as we acknowledge the work that needs to be done."
The request was made in a letter addressed to high-ranking members of the LPS, City Hall and the London Police Services Board.
In the letter, Pride London said it "stands with Black Lives Matter (BLM) London" and asked that police respect their request.
"While we recognize the work London Police Service has done to engage with London’s LGBT2Q+ communities over the past several years, the lack of progress with our Black and Indigenous communities is very disappointing, to say the least."
The letter, signed by seven members of the festival's board, insists that the LPS must start having meaningful conversations with BLM London to create a path forward.
"The response from London Police Service surrounding the demands of Black Lives Matter London is unacceptable. We urge London Police Service to take serious actions to dismantle the systematic racism that exists within its organization and to be a leader among other police organizations in making these changes."
However not all members of London’s LGBTQ+ community agreed with the Pride London decision.
Ward 2 Councillor Shawn Lewis would have liked to see some more consultation with the Pride membership, and felt LPS should in fact fly the flag to show they’ve built a positive relationship.
“I also feel it devalues the great work the LPS has done over the last 20 years to build a more positive relationship with the gay-lesbian community when I arrived in this city,” says Lewis, who is openly gay.
“That work could provide a road map to addressing some of the concerns from the BLM movement in our local community. If we are going to devalue that work, how can we use that to move forward.”
London Police Services Board Chair Javeed Sukhera responded that the board is aware that work must be done to address systemic racism and improve equality.
"We are committed to change, constructive dialogue, meaningful engagement, and working together. We welcome dialogue with members of the Pride London Festival Board, with Black Lives Matter, or any organization that is willing to work with us to address systemic racism. We will also engage in the work individually and organizationally."
Pride London hadd added the organization would be happy to facilitate any of those conversations moving forward.
But when CTV News informed Pride President Andrew Rosser Monday that police were going to go ahead and fly the flag beginning Friday, he expressed his disappointment.
“We typically have a good line of communication with them, and for them to inform the media before us is a bit concerning,” he said.
Rosser added that he was still processing the news, and would be discussing it with his board members Monday night.
This year's Pride London Festival will be held virtually from July 16 - 26.