Dyke March rubs Ottawa Police the wrong way
The 7th annual Ottawa Dyke March took place on Saturday, August 27th with about 300 participants taking over the downtown streets in a peaceful act of solidarity for women. However the event was marred by rude, abrasive and threatening behavior from the Ottawa police.
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The 7th annual Ottawa Dyke March took place on Saturday, August 27th with about 300 participants taking over the downtown streets in a peaceful act of solidarity for women. Dykes, femmes and everyone else donned their most colourful outfits with boas, flags and body paint as they marched hand in hand against patriarchy, misogyny, and homophobia in this celebratory protest. “It went pretty well and was generally a positive vibe,” says organizer Sam Whittle of the Dyke March Committee. However the event was marred by rude, abrasive and threatening behavior from the Ottawa police.
The route was less than 2 kilometers beginning at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street and ending at Dundonald Park on Somerset Street but at every turn the police were hostile and rude, says Whittle who remained at monument but was herself threatened with charges for civil disobedience.
Being a grassroots non-profit organization, the Dyke March debated whether or not to pay the hefty $1,500 fee to have a police escort and permit, “We felt that our mission and values with being anti-oppressive against systematic violence that it would be hypocritical for us to actually fund the institution.” In the end it was consciously decided they would march without since many within the community feel that “the police do not support or protect them,” says Whittle.
While it had been announced in the demonstration as a warning to participants that no permit was obtained, marchers had no idea of the intimidation and harassment they would experience from the cops.
Taunts from the police included telling a marcher, “If one of your friends get hit by a car you’re going to be held responsible.”
Marchers were repeatedly insulted being called, “ignorant,” and being told “Not to laugh,” according to Whittle. A volunteer marshall (security) was given a ticket for obstructing traffic. Whittle says the march was not a demonstration against the police, and that participants including herself were diplomatic and calm when dealing with them.
Based on this unpleasant interaction Whittles says, “Lots of people in community may not feel safe or welcome at our next march.” A formal complaint has been lodged by the Committee to the police department but has not received a reply as of printing.
Despite all this she remains optimistic for next year, “I hope that we can have another amazing experience.”