Days after organisers of the New York Pride banned the New York Police Department from participating in the annual June parade, an open letter by LGBTQI+ activists and organisations have called upon the Midsumma board to ban police officers and correctional officers from the Melbourne Pride march.
The Midsumma Pride parade is scheduled to be held on May 23, 2021 at 11.00 am. A contingent from Victoria Police and Sheriff’s Office Of Victoria will march along with groups representing emergency services.
The open letter by Sydney-based Pride In Protest has sought a response from the board of Midsumma and organisers of the Melbourne Pride march by May 21.
Victoria Police said that marching in the Pride parade in uniform was a sign of respect for the community. (Read full story here)
Star Observer reached out to Midsumma for a comment and will update the story if and when they respond.
‘A PR Exercise!’
“Police pose a risk to the safety of many LGBTQIA+ community members, particularly First Nations people, people of colour, poor people, sex workers, people with disability and trans and gender diverse people,” the letter stated.
The LGBTQIA+ Community are making themselves heard across the world, from #NYCPride to #MelbournePride Read our open letter to the board of @midsumma calling for the removal of police from the march this Saturday and sign here: https://t.co/Ief8uCm69d #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/xBKl42ch2F
— Pride in Protest (@prideinprotest) May 17, 2021
“To expect people who have survived police violence to march with their oppressors, denies their right to justice and safety at Melbourne Pride. Inviting police to march actively excludes the most vulnerable in the LGBTQIA+ community.”
“We must publicly speak out against the violence of policing and stand in solidarity with family members and communities harmed by police brutality and deaths in custody. We must actively ban police from our events and prioritise the physical and emotional safety of minority communities impacted by the prison-industrial complex.”
The letter, besides seeking a ban on the police from participating in the march, has also asked the organisers to call an open meeting with the community to discuss the future relationship between the Midsumma and the police.
The most recent incidents of the police targeting LGBTQI community have been pointed out in the letter, including the leaking of custodial mugshots of former AFL coach Dani Laidley, and the raid at iconic gay book store Hares & Hyenas that left party organiser Nik Dimopoulos seriously injured.
Community Speaks Up
According to the Victorian Pride Lobby, the community has spoken and now it’s important that Midsumma listens.
“The LGBTIQA+ community has a fraught history with the police and this is especially so for the most marginalised among us. That’s why the Victorian Pride Lobby does not support police officers and corrections officers marching at Pride in uniform. We heard from over 1,500 community members last year in our Police Attitudes Survey and the overwhelming majority of people held this view,” Nevena Spirovska, Co-Convener Victorian Pride Lobby told Star Observer.
“It is important to note that no individual, no matter their occupation or background, is being excluded from participating in Pride March and that people have the opportunity to join other community floats that are involved. Central to Pride March is the celebration of inclusivity of all members of the LGBTIQA+ community and their allies.”
“But protest is the backbone of the LGBTIQA+ community, and this open letter must be addressed. The Lobby would welcome the opportunity to work with Midsumma on these issues to ensure every LGBTIQA+ person feels safe and supported during Pride,” added Spirovska.
The University of Melbourne Student’s Union Queer Political Action Committee is one of the community organisations that has signed the open letter. Amelia Bright of the UMSU Queer Political Action Committee explains that the the fight against injustice matters.
“Pride is a protest. As queer people we have a duty to highlight the injustice of policing, from transphobic strip searches to racist murders in police custody. While cops can march in uniform, Pride can’t be safe for all of us. And if Pride can’t be inclusive, what’s the point?,” Bright told Star Observer.
“We owe our community to the queer elders before us, who fought police violence in the bars and streets. We can’t forget that legacy by allowing cops to march. Police violence is still widespread and the fight still matters,” added Bright.
Gay and Lesbian Police Officers March In The Pride
On the Midsumma website, the organisers have sought to explain the police presence at the Pride parade.
Police In Pride Divides Community, New York And Beyond
— Department of Homo Affairs (@AffairsHomo) March 6, 2021
Across the world police participation in LGBTQI+ events has been a controversial and a divisive issue for the community.
Last week, the organisers New York Pride parade banned police and other law enforcement officers from marching in the parade till 2025. The organisers also said they will strive to keep on duty officers a block away from LGBTQI+ people during the march. The New York pride parade is the oldest and one of the largest Pride parades in the world.
The Gay Officers Action League, reacted to the ban saying it prevented the officers from “celebrating their identities and honoring the shared legacy of the Stonewall Riots.”
There was irony writ large in the statement given the fact that the 1969 Stonewall riots – said to be the start of the modern LGBTQI+ pride movement – began after a NYPD police raid on a gay bar.
Closer to home, a vote to ban police officers from the 2021 Sydney Mardi Gras Pride parade was defeated in December 2020.
During the parade, Department of Homo Affairs staged a unique protest against police participation at the Mardi Gras parade, and four members of the outfit were detained and arrested.
In March 2021, the Northern Territory Police arrested a queer activist during a protest against FABalice Rainbow flag raising ceremony outside Alice Springs police station.