Civil liberties & freedom of expression threatened
Queers Against The Cuts had valid points to make
London & Brighton – 3 September 2012
“The Queers Against The Cuts contingent at Brighton Pride on Saturday were forced by stewards and police to the back of the march. During the march they were surrounded by police on foot and horseback, and subjected to repeated intimidation. Their civil liberties and freedom of expression were threatened,” said human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, who marched at Brighton Pride with the Green Party in support of marriage equality.
“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 brilliant parade.
“The group might have been forced off the march completely had it not been for remonstrations with the police and stewards by Caroline Lucas MP and myself. Brighton Pride should be welcoming and open to all LGBT organisations that defend the interests of our community.
“Participating groups should not 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.
“Queers Against The Cuts had valid points to make about the impact of the government’s public spending cuts on services and grants to people with HIV and to the LGBT community, including on homeless LGBT youth, LGBT refugees and disabled LGBT people. I support their stand. Coalition cutbacks are damaging and harmful to many vulnerable people – both LGBT and straight,” he added.
Statement by Queers Against The Cuts activists:
Members of Brighton Queers Against the Cuts were kettled and persistently harassed by the Police at Brighton Pride Parade last Saturday. London Queers Against the Cuts, who were guests of the Brighton group observed the kettling and also experienced the harassment first hand themselves.
“There seemed to have been trouble before the parade moved off – with our section mysteriously being moved to the back of the parade.” said Richard Farnos, London QUAC Co-Convenor.
“But the real trouble began as the parade moved off when some latecomers sort to join the group. Led by a belligerent steward (who at one point threaten to have me thrown off the march for asking why people couldn’t join the parade), a group of police on horseback and foot cut in front us and began to kettle the group.”
A member of the London group went forward to inform the organisers of the Parade what was going on, however he largely found them unhelpful.
However Caroline Lucas and Peter Tatchell who were marching with the Green Party returned and tried to reason with the Police and stewards. Peter Tatchell pointed out that people were being allowed to join other parts of the parade and that assertions made by the stewards that thousands would join in were ridiculous.
Richard Farnos observed: “In a parallel discussion I had with another steward she questioned whether something ‘so overtly political’ should be on the parade at all and even suggested that somehow we would let fascists join our group on the march!”
As a result of Caroline’s and Peter’s intervention the Queers Against the Cuts groups were allowed to continue but so did the harassment – all the way to Preston Park. The contingent was surrounded by Police and people were prevented from joining.
“I saw people physically thrown back into the crowds,” Richard continued: “Indeed the behaviour of the police was reckless and dangerous, at one point the horses were so close to us that one licked my neck. We had older and disabled people with us and one stumble and fall and we would have all been under the horses.”
“I have been a political activist since the eighties and have been on many a demo. The police behaviour does not surprise me.” Richard Farnos concluded: “What is a new experience however was the complete lack of support from the organisers. Are they so enamoured with the corporate pound that the plight of HIV+ people who will lose their benefits; or young LGBT people who will become homeless has no interest to them? The day when Pride stops being political is the point when Pride will become pointless!”
Queers Against The Cuts: Beth Granter – 07976 846 385
Peter Tatchell – 0207 403 1790