QUEENSLAND Police officers who were at a peaceful Brisbane marriage equality rally over the weekend as a sign of support were forced to leave after a member of the Socialist Alternative allegedly verbally “ambushed” them.

LGBTI rights group Equal Love Brisbane held the latest of their marriage equality and anti-homophobia rallies last Saturday to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).

At the rally, a leading member of Equal Love who is also affiliated with the Socialist Alternative, was accused by witnesses for allegedly questioning the attendance of two on-duty uniformed police LGBTI liaison officers. It is understood that this person allegedly approached the two officers in an “aggressive and in your face” manner and raised their voice when asking what they were doing there, before allegedly telling them they were not invited to the rally and not welcome.

The officers left shortly afterwards without confrontation or any action being taken. The Star Observer understands the two police officers attended the rally as a goodwill gesture in a peaceful manner. They had attended an IDAHOT event held earlier in the day at New Farm Park, hosted by community support and advocacy groups with appearances by bi-partisan political representatives from local and state governments.

The news of the alleged incident at the rally made its way to social media later that day.

“The Socialist Alternative are shocking, they’re a pest at every rally they attend… they’re there purely to push their own agenda. Disgusting,” one post read.

“Appalling. Again with the Socialist Alternative stepping in and tarnishing the rallies.”

There were also messages in support of the officers.

“[The officer] had every right to be there on duty if that was their job for the day or off duty. Adversarial behaviour helps no one,” one post read.

Another posted: “Perhaps it would be easier for the organisers of Equal Love Brisbane… to tell everyone who they don’t want to attend the rallies.”

However, one Socialist Alternative member and Equal Love Brisbane co-convenor Kat Henderson responded to the discussion on social media by posting: “I’m not for cops at Equal Love rallies… I was disturbed to see police walking around at an LGBTI rights rally. I doubt [the officers] were even invited.”

Despite this, some social media users highlighted that the views of some Socialist Alternative members did not speak for the entire Equal Love movement.

Former Equal Love committee member Dylan Carmichael — who raised concerns of the group’s involvement in LGBTI rallies after a sign featuring Tony Abbott in a rainbow noose was displayed at a rally last December — told the Star Observer: “It’s a shame to yet again see such antisocial behaviour from the Socialist Alternative, yet again overshadowing the good and valuable work that Equal Love does.”

Equal Love Brisbane organiser Jessica Payne said she did not witness the incident and could not comment on the claims but said the rights group was overall happy with how the day went.

“Equal Love Brisbane was very pleased with the number of people who rallied yesterday — over 400 — and the overall positive mood of the day,” she told the Star Observer.

“The theme of IDAHOT ‘free expression’ was taken to the streets in a ‘Minute Of Noise’ to commemorate all those who have fought for LGBTI rights. It seemed to be the highlight for many participants. We look forward to organising further successful events and continuing the campaign for marriage equality in the coming months.”

Main image: Scene from last weekend’s marriage equality and anti-homophobia rally in Brisbane. Photo: Brendan Burke

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