Pride London 'disappointed' in London police decision to fly flag at headquarters
LONDON, ONT. -- The Pride London Festival board of directors and London Police Association (LPA) are both citing a lack of communication when it comes to the saga over the flying of a rainbow flag at police headquarters.
"We're disappointed in the decision, we had hoped they'd have had a conversation with us before making a public statement," says Andrew Rosser, president of Pride London. "That's the bigger disappointment - that there was no conversation."
However LPA Executive Director Rick Robson says he was taken back by the letter sent to his association and the London Police Service (LPS) asking them not to fly the flag during festival week.
The letter was sent late Friday, and Robson says by Monday morning the letter had made its way to the media.
"The key is in the letter, I agree is dialogue, that's the way forward," says Robson. "Part of that dialogue was we needed more training with LGBTQ, Black and Indigenous community members."
Robson added, "Over the past few years we brought in Rosser, Leroy Hibbert (an outreach speaker), and Indigenous leaders. Each person spent 14 weeks training members of LPS to understand oppression, history, systemic racism. There wasn't a dialogue to say that's not the correct method forward, or to say take different steps or this relationship will break down."
Robson says he has spoken to Alexandra Kane of Black Lives Matter (BLM), and hopes the dialogue could improve.
Rick Robson, executive director of the London Police Association, speaks in London, Ont. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (Brent Lale / CTV News)
At the LPA office on William Street the pride flag has been flying since the beginning of July.
"Every organization has the right to fly a pride flag, it doesn't belong anyone and we recognize that," says Rosser. 'This was about stepping up and making a decision to support the members of our communities who feel more marginalized."
But Robson says the request from Pride London was hurtful to some of the LGBTQ officers.
"They were concerned when the decision came a couple years ago when they couldn't wear uniform in the parade anymore," says Robson.
"That was a very close source of pride to be both in uniform and pride parade. We respected the decision but it was a struggle for them. Now to go one step further - which I suggest is a step back and not forward - to now suggest LPA or LPS should not even bear flag from pride, will only further alienate those of our members."
Andrew Rosser, president of Pride London Festival, speaks in London, Ont. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (Brent Lale / CTV News)
Rosser says that he and other members of the community have worked hard to build a long-standing relationship between Pride London and the LPS.
Now they are requesting police they do the same with BLM.
"We are inviting police, the executive and the board to our Pride and BLM event that we are hosting on July 25," says Rosser.
"It's open to anyone to sign up and be a speaker, so maybe some of [the police] can sign up and share their perspective."
Robson says it's difficult to know how the relationship between LPA, LPS and Pride London goes forward, but says the relationship needs to continue to evolve.
"The key about relationships is even if there is a difficulty, a point of disagreement, the relationship continues," says Robson. "You pick up the phone, have a dialogue and if we are the ones in the wrong, by all means lets have that conversation of what do we need to do to make this better."
Pride London Festival begins virtually Thursday and runs until July 26.