Monday, 3 September 2012

Response to Pride Organisers and Police

At Brighton Pride an anti-cuts 'Queers Against the Cuts' bloc registered to march in the parade but was sent to the back by Pride organisers and Police. Participants were subjected to kettling and intimidation throughout the parade. See reports here and here. Peter Tatchell said,
"Throughout the march they were kettled by police on foot and horseback, and subjected to repeated intimidation. The group was peaceful and orderly. There was no justification for the way they were mistreated. No other political contingent was abused in this way. It marred what was otherwise a great parade.
"Participating groups should not be subjected to political vetting or censorship. I hope this was just a case of over-zealous, maverick stewarding and policing and not officially sanctioned by the Brighton Pride organisers."

Pride organisers have commented in G-Scene that the Queers Against the Cuts bloc was asked to move to the back of Pride because of concerns raised by the Police:
“It transpired that the group gave an open invite for people join them and Sussex Police raised some concerns about this. We were advised by Sussex Police to move them to the back of the parade, when stewards attempted to facilitate this the group declined to move at all.”
However the bloc organisers were always clear that individuals could join if they agreed with its message. The Labour Party, Tories and Liberal Democrats all extended open invites to members of the public to join their section of the parade; why were they not sent to the back? When the police called Beth, the main organiser, to introduce themselves prior to the parade they expressed no concerns about the bloc.

Click to enlarge

Chief Supt Graham Bartlett comments were also misleading, as they argue the use of horses and officers at the back of the parade was totally innocent:
“Police officers have always walked at the back in order to distinguish the parade from the rest of the public and to safely manage the parade through the streets to its destination in Preston Park, and to make sure there is a safe distance between the horses and members of the public.”
This says nothing about the Police kettling half the bloc, and nothing of why the bloc was relegated to the back in the first place, presumably for the reasons described by the organisers. More importantly, it doesn't at the very least acknowledge the intimidation felt by participants who were surrounded by police and four horses throughout the parade!

The main point needs to be repeated: Pride needs to reconnect with its campaigning roots at a time of significant attacks on the rights and services of LGBTQ people and communities. The impact of cuts in public services will affect LGBTQ people and communities especially hard. Raising the age for single room housing benefit, cuts and privatisation of the NHS, cuts in the public sector (with the best records in equalities policies), cuts to LGBT and youth services, and attacks on employment rights all stand to turn back the clock.

While significant legal advances have been made against discrimination, prejudice cannot be legislated away. More and more people are concluding that liberation has not been achieved, and that a mass movement is necessary to defend and extend the rights and services that have been won. Alongside the rest of the workers’ movement, the campaign needs to be waged against austerity and the phenomenal profits being accumulated by the super-rich at our expense.

Events at Brighton Pride this year are the result of the continued watering-down of the Pride celebration to little more than a billboard for big business, with organisers and police ensuring that even organised participation by anti-cuts campaigners, Socialists etc. faced intimidation, harassment and exclusion.