First queer festival in South Korean city delayed by violent anti-gay protesters

First queer festival in South Korean city delayed by violent anti-gay protesters
Image: Image: Incheon Queer Culture Festival - 인천퀴어문화축제 / Facebook.

Incheon in South Korea held its first ever queer festival on Saturday, with events delayed and others cancelled as over 1,000 anti-LGBTI protesters blocked the parade route.

The parade was scheduled to take 20 minutes, but organisers said it ultimately took five hours to complete, The Korea Herald reported.

The protest reportedly led to physical attacks and verbal abuse against the roughly 300 participants in the festival.

Witnesses said the obstruction left participants stranded and without access to food or bathrooms for nearly five hours.

Trucks carrying items to be used for the event were blocked as well, and protesters reportedly punctured tires of the vehicles as well.

Plans to hold performances and set up space for 40 vendors featuring LGBTI groups and artists, among others, were forced to be scrapped.

Attendees were told to “leave Incheon for good” and “stop wasting tax money on AIDS treatment”.

The protestors apparently lay down in the street to block the parade and held signs which bore such anti-LGBTI sentiments as “we protest homosexuality because we love (humanity).”

“Our flags and banners were damaged by anti-gay protesters, and we could not eat nor use the bathroom throughout the entire day,” a statement by advocacy group Rainbow Mama Group read.

“We express our gratitude to those who stayed with us in spite of such violence, especially the festival organizers who made their utmost efforts to ensure our safety. We’ll always be with the LGBT community in future.”

The organisers behind Seoul Queer Culture Festival suggested police were complicit in the violence by asking attendees to end the parade early.

“The Korean society will have to acknowledge that (what happened on Saturday) is a form of violence against minorities, not a form of religious activity,” they said.

A Korea-based journalist posted on Facebook that “a kid was violently beaten up by a mob of Christian protestors. His crime? Holding up a rainbow flag.”

“Police did absolutely nothing,” he said.

Eight people were reportedly booked by police, without detention, for interrupting the rally, obstruction of justice and blocking traffic.

Organisers and participants gathered outside Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency on Saturday at 2pm condemning inaction and violence on behalf of authorities.

Earlier this year, the Seoul Queer Culture Festival successfully held its first ever rally. While homosexuality is not criminalised in South Korea, the country does not have anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTI community.

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