A Melbourne man was allegedly abused by a crowd of anti-LGBTI protesters at a rally against the Safe Schools program on Saturday.
Nicholas Butler was called “queer” and “poofter” by angry parents at the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House when he attended the rally with a rainbow flag, according to a post on Facebook.
Around 200 to 250 people met in Melbourne to voice their opposition to the Safe Schools program, which teaches diversity and opposes bullying.
“I’ve been called a queer, been told I’m trying to turn children into ‘strange people’, and been violently threatened,” Butler posted on Facebook during the event.
“I almost got attacked by the whole crowd when a guy on Parliament steps started yelling at me ‘Get down here, poofter!’
“These are sick people.”
Butler later described being warned by police about his safety during the march, while he was keeping a distance from the protesters.
“As they started to march to Parliament steps, a police officer advised me not to put myself in danger, noting that I was ‘outnumbered’,” he said.
“I agreed this would be wise.”
He said that police received complaints from other members of the public about the protesters abusing him.
“They [police] also advised me to put away my flag and leave the rally for my own safety,” he said.
“All in all, pretty disturbing.”
LGBTI activist Michael Barnett also attended to document the rally.
“Without exception the speakers produced distortions, misinformation, cherry-picked stories and outright lies in their campaign to fear-monger against same-sex attracted, gender diverse, and intersex children,” Barnett told Star Observer.
One speaker at the rally said her high schooler had been traumatised by hearing about anal sex in sex education.
Victorian MP Graham Watt also spoke at the event, telling the crowd that the Liberal Party would scrap Safe Schools if elected, replacing it with another anti-bullying program.
“After the rally I asked him whether this anti-bullying program would protect transgender and non-binary students, but he said he didn’t know as the program had not been devised yet,” said Barnett.
“Most disappointingly he did not mention to the crowds the adult transgender child of a very close friend of his that he mentioned to [my husband] Gregory and me after the rally.”
Barnett said that he observed Butler, the only other visible LGBTI person in attendance, being “peaceful and respectful throughout” the rally.
He added that he respects the parents’ right to rally against Safe Schools, but not to do so without criticism.
“One pedestrian wearing rainbow badges passed by the rally and had a look of horror and disgust on her face and was visibly distressed when she heard the hate speech coming from one of the speakers,” said Barnett.
While the Liberal Party has said it would scrap Safe Schools, Minister for Equality Martin Foley has said the program will remain safe in Victoria under a Labor government.