Pride Toronto’s executive director Olivia Nuamah promised that Sunday’s parade was going to be the biggest one — and it delivered.
More than 235 groups are in the parade, which left Church St., headed north towards Bloor St., around 2 p.m.
Pride is so big this year that groups waiting to join the parade thought it could be hours before they get their turn to match. Dave Mitchell, president of CUPE local 79, representing the City of Toronto’s inside workers, said that last year, the group joined around 1 p.m. On Sunday, he was standing on Bloor St., east of Church, still waiting close to 2 p.m.
Asked if he was worried about the rumoured protests, Mitchell said: “I’m not worried. There’s a lot of love here. It would be hard to drown that out.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mayor John Tory and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took to the streets with the other participants.
Though it was a slow-moving parade, the crowd was just as enthusiastic when it reached College and Yonge St.
Casey House, one of the first floats in the parade — where muscular dancers in red shorts moved to the music blaring from on-board speakers — made it to the corner of College and Yonge Sts. at 3:35, an hour and a half after the parade started.
Crowds standing on the median on Yonge St. cheered and clapped, and danced to the music. Constant cheers went up as a steady flow of floats and marchers moved past.
Felicia Feather, waiting at the corner for a glimpse of her son on the Toronto Triggerfish water polo float, said “This is the best thing ever.”
“Doesn’t it make you proud of this city,” she added when she heard the parade had a record number of groups participating.
This year the festival is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the birth of the gay-rights movement, when the community stood up to police after a raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village. The raid set off a series of violent demonstrations by rights advocates.
“What Stonewall really represents is the fight for this community’s right to be treated as equally as everybody else,” said Nuamah earlier in the week.
“We’ve been really overwhelmed by the love and the support we’ve had this year,” said Nuamah. “You’re going to see that completely demonstrated in the context of the parade.”
Premier Doug Ford said he would not participate after Pride Toronto voted down uniformed police participation in the parade. Ford took York Pride’s organizers by surprise when he appeared and marched beside police on June 15.
Nuamah said that she’s “pleased that the premier has stepped up to any Pride. I think it’s important that our elected representative appear at Pride. And so we want him actually to be at our festival,” she said.
“In the sense that he was marching with the police, what we also want him to do is to use his authority to help us have a better conversation.”
Police won’t be marching but they will be providing protection.
Organizers have stepped up security after recent clashes in Hamilton between anti-LGBTQ-rights protesters and Pride parade participants, as well as a disturbance in Toronto’s Gay Village by a pro-Christian preacher earlier in June.
The 519 distributed safety kits on Thursday that contained messages of love, noisemakers and information on how to report a confrontation, if there is one.
Patty Winsa is a Toronto-based data reporter. Reach her via email: email@example.com