The speeches were forceful and short, the applause long and loud.

One by one, almost 20 high-profile award recipients of Pride Toronto gave back their trophies yesterday morning, criticized the organization for trying to curb freedom of speech and allowing the parade to be corporatized, and called for reclaiming the event.

“In silencing dissident voices for justice, it is our history as queers that they silence,” said El-Farouk Khaki, a lawyer who specializes in helping gay refugee claimants. “Till the ban is rescinded, I cannot retain my awards.”

Queer activists came together in protest against Pride Toronto’s ban of the phrase “Israeli apartheid” at the Church St. Community Centre.

Pride Toronto’s board voted to ban the phrase from the event on May 25. The decision, made amid pressure from city councillors, sponsors, mayoral candidates and Jewish advocacy groups, targets the activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which created a controversy when about 200 of its members marched in the parade last year.