Pride and Protest

Over the weekend I posted on facebook about the attack on protestors at the Pride parade.

I’m going to personalise this response rather than make it abstract because in this case it makes more sense to me to do that.

My post, which I had been asked to share, got a very strong response and quite different versions of events were presented.

In the initial post the suggestion was police had broken the protestor’s arm – that certainly concerned me and was something that as an MP I could have potentially taken action on.

When it seemed it was security and not police who were involved and when there were accusations that the protestors had assaulted a volunteer (consequently I understand this was corrected) it became clear that social media was not the place to try and work out the details of what had happened and there was no parliamentary political role for me to play.

My second post was written in that context. It was not intended to discredit the protestors or side with the police. When I read the responses to my second post I realised (and was advised) saying anything more might be unhelpful.

I think this is something we need to work through as communities, and people within communities.

I would now just like to say – as an individual in the community – that I am still distressed by what happened.

I acknowledge that my personal history – having had friends assaulted by police, having had a friend raped by a police officer, having had a friend unjustly arrested and charged by police, and seeing friends regularly harassed – predisposes me to mistrust the police. I acknowledge that. This is of course tempered by my desire to be able to raise issues about police and corrections within a political context without being dismissed as ‘anti-police’. However I know that all too many marginalised people have experienced violence and injustice much more directly and much more recently.

In light of that reality I want to thank the protestors for their bravery. I support your message and your right to safely deliver it.

I have friends in the police force and people I really like and respect who were marching in the Parade. I know they have been working relentlessly to make the police force a place that is safe for LGBTI people to interact with. I know too that they felt the decision by the police last year not to allow them to participate in uniform was a sign of homophobia and that they had been working really hard to get that decision reversed for the ultimate benefit of the community.

I really appreciate and admire the efforts of people in the police force who are at significant personal cost working for the safety of all. Institutions are slow to change and don’t change without people inside them working for change.

I have called the police when I’ve had concerns about domestic violence. I’ve called the police when my flat was robbed. I’ve worked with good police on DV and sexual violence ‘cases’. I can appreciate the value of the police.

I want to acknowledge their work and efforts to change the police and the ultimate belief in the possibility of a police force that is safe for all inside and out.

I also know some of the Pride organisers who have spent hundreds of volunteer hours organising a huge range of events for the community with the goal of increasing pride and ultimately the safety of us all. There are so many amazing things that have been happening as part of Pride that I’ve heard such incredible support for. BGO, all the community events and the theatre! Pride really has been an amazing accomplishment. Amazing.

I want to thank them for their work.

I also understand that corporate sponsorship is the contemporary model for organising events and that the organisers have been incredibly successful with this. I get that for many people having major sponsors interested in being part of Pride is a sign of equality and success. I can also see that for many the prettiness of what money can buy – with gorgeous blinged out ATMs and large stunning floats is a good in itself – I love pretty. I can see too how for some this is proof to the “straight community” that whatever they can do we can do better.

But I also understand that this creates a conflict for those of us who have an ambivalent relationship with capitalism; who might not see success as being a niche market for big corporates; who indeed might struggle against being brought more fully into that world.

For me while it doesn’t sit quite right I haven’t engaged in the discussion partly probably because I’m so immersed in a compromised world of parliamentary politics. But I don’t see the protests as hate. I see them as cultural dialogue – and I’m really interested in where this discussion goes. I’m saddened that cultural dialogue resulted in someone being physically hurt. I hope we can all find a way to work through this so our differences can be safely expressed.

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