Where is your Pride?

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CEMB at Pride in London

When you deny your own a voice, you have none.

Pride parades and marches can be wonderful events. They are a celebration of one’s sexuality and gender. They are all about LGBTQ people being loud and proud. They are also a firm statement to the cishet majority, “We’re here, we’re queer; get used to it.”

The Pride movement grew out of the Stonewall riot of 28 June 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City. The Stonewall inn was a progressive bar which was frequented by the local LGBTQ community. The riots which followed the raid led to “Stonewall” becoming a bye-word for LGBTQ direct action. A year later, on 27 June 1970 the first “Gay Liberation” march took place in Chicago, followed by Los Angeles and Philadelphia the following day. These marches were to remember Stonewall and to stand up for gay rights. It was from these that annual marches sprang up across the globe, taking the name “Pride” and coming to encompass the entire LGBTQ movement. As society moves towards a greater understanding of sexuality and gender, but with a great deal of prejudice still existing they are more important now than they have ever been.

We therefore see that Pride events are deeply steeped in political activism and taking a stance for LGBTQ rights. So you would think that they would be a legitimate time for protest, wouldn’t you? Except in the United Kingdom, you would be wrong.

On 8 July Pride in London took place, at which members of the secular group “Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain” (CEMB) took part, with some carrying placards stating “Allah is Gay”, “Fuck Islamic homophobia”, “Islamophobia is an oxymoron” and “Throw ISIS off the roof”. Enter East London Mosque, who lodged an official complaint with Pride in London, who objected to the “Islamophobia” from the CEMB.

Mosque spokesman Salman Farsi stated “We’ve raised a complaint with the co-chairs of the event that the group was inciting hatred against Muslims, and in particular [in relation] to our good name, based on absolutely groundless reasons. For us to see such a mainstream event that is supposed to celebrate tolerance and love used as a hate platform was really quite shocking. One of the signs said ‘Islamophobia is an oxymoron’. Our religion doesn’t promote hatred or homophobia. Yes, there might be theological topics dealing with homosexuality in Islam, but that’s clearly very separate from promoting hatred and homophobia,”

Except of course, you cannot separate the two. Islam, like all the Abrahamic faiths, IS a homophobic religion. And the East London Mosque is rarely out of the news, having been investigated on more than one occasion for links to Islamist hate preachers.

So, how would you have expected Pride in London to respond to this? One would have expected them to rally behind their own LGBTQ participants, wouldn’t one? Except you would be wrong. Instead Pride in London sided with the East London Mosque and condemned the CEMB.

Pride in London responded, “If anyone taking part in our parade makes someone feel ostracised, discriminated against or humiliated, then they are undermining and breaking the very principles on which we exist. Our code of conduct is very clear on this matter. All volunteers, staff and parade groups agree that Pride celebrates diversity and will not tolerate any discrimination of any kind. While our parade has always been a home to protest, which often means conflicting points of view, Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”

Where was the hate? Where was the alleged “Islamophobia”? It surely cannot be in saying “Allah is Gay”, as that could only be an insult if being gay was in any way derogatory. Contrary to press reports, there were no signs saying “Fuck Islam”, but rather “Fuck Islamic homophobia” – those are two different things. And sorry, but Islamophobia IS an oxymoron; a contradiction in terms which ultimately makes sense, like “military intelligence”. Islam is a hateful and hate-filled religion. That is not a statement against individual Muslims, but rather against the barbaric dark ages bastard child of Christianity. Islam is one of the biggest threats in the world today, and most of those who suffer at its hands are in fact Muslims. That’s not prejudice, it is a fact.

It appears to me that Pride in London really shot themselves in the foot over this one. So having calmed down from headdesking, I was just about over it when story No.2 broke.

Belfast Pride took place on 5 August, in the wake of the UK having a General Election and the Conservative Party only squeezing back into power after doing a deal with the biggest party in power in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP); a Christian-based party known for their extreme conservative opposition to equal marriage and other LGBTQ and human rights issues. Northern Ireland is the only part of the British Isles which still does not allow same-sex marriage, and that is a direct consequence of DUP policies.

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Eleanor Evans (right) at Belfast Pride

Bisexual woman Eleanor Evans attended Belfast Pride carrying a home-made placard stating “Fuck the DUP”. She was already halfway thought the parade, having passed a number of police with not problem, when a Belfast Pride official came running towards her and shouting at her. Evans clam that the official told her “Either put the sign down or leave the parade.” before trying to rip the sign out of her hands and pushed her. Evans, an LGBTQ charity worker, who attended the event with her transgender sister, reported the incident at an information point, and was curtly told she would have to email them for official action to be taken.

Belfast Pride duly investigated that matter, have utterly denied that Eleanor Evans was pushed or assaulted, or any other wrongdoing on the part of the official concerned, and have not offered any apology. Seán Ó Néill, Chair of Belfast Pride, instead claimed that Eleanor’s sign “breached the Parades Commission’s guidelines”, which state that parade participants “refrain from using words or behaviour which could reasonably be perceived as being intentionally sectarian, provocative”. Eleanor’s sign was most certainly not sectarian – it did not single out the DUP as being Protestants – and I have personally seen much, MUCH more provocative signs at many parades. Including the extremely provocative Orange parades which are a blight upon both Northern Ireland and my own native Scotland, many of which are attended by DUP politicians and other members.

Oh, and were it not enough that Belfast Pride enforced Evans to take her sign down, a DUP politician has now reported her to the Police Service of Northern Ireland for “hate speech”. Tell me that’s not victimisation of an LGBTQ person?

So, reeling from a double whammy, I breathed a sigh of relief, and though I could not be there, I was happy for friends who were attending Glasgow Pride on 19th August, and all the happier that it would be opened by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland.

It was in the late afternoon that people started posting of arrests at Glasgow Pride. Homophobes? Transphobes? Nope. LGBTQ people.

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Arrests at Glasgow Pride

In a bloc of LGBTQ members of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) one marcher carrying a placard declaring “These Faggots Fight Fascists” was approached by police, and he and another IWW member were arrested for “alleged breach of the peace with homophobic aggravation, police obstruction and resisting police arrest”. Except the sign was not homophobic, as the man carrying it is gay, and identifies as a ‘faggot’. Arresting a gay man for carrying a sign saying “faggot”, claiming homophobia, is akin to accusing a black person using the N word of being racist, and arresting them for hate speech. The protestor was carrying the sign to reflect recent events in the USA, where neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville University. It was a message of solidarity to those fighting fascism across the Atlantic Ocean.

In a separate incident another man, and two women of the LGBTQ women’s drumming band Sheboom were arrested but later liberated after breaking from the parade and playing outside a Roman Catholic cathedral. Glasgow bye-laws prohibit this.

So, again you would expect Pride to stand by LGBTQ participants, and again you would be wrong. In a press statement, Pride Glasgow said;

“Pride Glasgow is extremely disappointed in the actions of a small group of people that tried to target the Pride Glasgow Parade yesterday. Whilst Pride Glasgow promotes an Equality for all agenda and free speech the actions of this group jeopardised the safety of everyone attending the parade.

The Pride Parade in Glasgow has always been a platform for protest alongside a celebration of LGBTI life and we are saddened that this shameful attempt to sabotage the parade has come from within the LGBTI community.

Pride Glasgow fully encourage the participation of uniformed services in the Parade including the Police and whilst we understand that others may have a different view on this. Actions which endanger others will not be permitted.

Pride Glasgow support the actions of Police Scotland in dealing with this group to ensure the safety of everyone on the Parade and the Festival. Pride Glasgow has worked closely with the police and relevant agencies to put appropriate measures in place to deal with incidents at all levels especially given the current threat level.

This year’s Parade was one of the biggest ever to happen in Glasgow and with over 90 floats and walking groups alongside over 6000 individuals the majority of which followed the correct guidelines set out by Glasgow City Council for Parades but we were disappointed that Sheboom a group who have taken part historically in the parade felt the need to break this by splitting the parade and continuing to play music outside the Cathedral which is a requirement from Glasgow City Council for all Parades to cease music during the passing of any place of worship.”

I would love to see just how anyone was put in danger by peaceful protestors. Yes, IWW objected to the police presence on the parade – which I do not agree with them protesting; it’s only right that we show that LGBTQ people are in ALL walks of life. But on the other hand it appears to me that the police got heavy-handed. I am actually a veteran steward of many peace marches and I would immediately like to know why police officers, supposedly taking part in the parade, took it upon themselves to approach the individual with the “These Faggots Fight Fascists”, or Sheboom, without approaching Pride Glasgow stewards or officials first. That is the usual course of action to take, and it is only when stewards will not act that police action is usually taken.

As to Sheboom, if they broke from the march and played outside a RC cathedral, they were indeed in the wrong.  However, the bye-laws concerning playing outside places of worship were instituted to prevent sectarian provocation, which too often has erupted in violence.  In the past.  To arrest peaceful members of a lesbian drumming band on the same pretext is unspeakable.

As far as I can see, no-one jeapordised the safety of anyone at Pride Glasgow. Well, certainly not until members of Police Scotland started wrestling peaceful protestors to the ground and handcuffing them.

For Pride Glasgow to say that they promote free speech whilst supporting the arrest of a man stating that he fights fascism is in itself derisory. I have heard that some were against the parade being “politicised”. Well, if that’s the case, then why did Pride Glasgow invite the Scottish National Party (SNP) First Minister of Scotland to open it? You don’t get much more political than that – particularly in Scotland. Indeed, whilst I appreciate the importance of a serving First Minister of Scotland opening Pride Glasgow, if they are so fond of free speech and non-partisan, why did they not invite ALL party leaders in Scotland to jointly open the event? In fact, that would have been much more fitting, given that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale are both openly lesbian, and the co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie, is gay.

The behaviour of Pride organisers in London, in Belfast, and in Glasgow, over these incidents has been disgraceful. Well, this faggot fights fascists too. And that includes the fascism of political Islam, the fascism of the DUP, and of the fascism of the extreme right both in the USA and here at home. I stand by the CEMB, I stand by Eleanor Evans, I stand by the IWW, and I stand by Sheboom – all of whom were taking a stand against those who would quite happily kill every participant in every Pride event. It is only a pity that Pride in London, Belfast Pride, and Glasgow Pride apparently do not have the guts to make that stance too, but are quite happy to sleep with the enemy instead.

Pride? Try “Abject Shame”.

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