A day after violence erupted at Melbourne’s Midsumma Pride march when protesters confronted the Victoria Police contingent, CEO Karen Bryant blamed both sides for escalating the situation.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton rejected the claim and in an interview with ABC Radio Melbourne reiterated that he was “pleased” with the “restraint” shown by police officers.
One person was arrested after protesters clashed with the Victoria Police contingent at the Midsumma Pride march in Melbourne on Sunday, February 4, 2024. Protestors chanted ‘All cops are b*#*ards’, and ‘Cops kill queers’. Videos uploaded on X (formerly Twitter) showed a group of around 50 protestors being pushed and shoved as they tried to disrupt around 100 Victoria Police officers, some with their families and children, who were marching in the Pride parade.
The Victorian government backed the police. Minister For Equality Harriet Shing said she was “incredibly disappointed to see the disgraceful behaviour by a small number of people directed against LGBTIQA+ members of Victoria Police who joined us at the Pride march”.
Protests At Midsumma
Chief Commissioner Patton, who marched with the police contingent at the Pride march, accused the protestors of abusing the officers and throwing paint bombs. Patton said he has “nothing but contempt” for the protestors, and praised Victoria Police officers for showing “restraint”.
In an Instagram post, the Civil Resistance Youth Movement (CRYM), one of the groups involved in Sunday’s protests, said “The staunch queers who fought back against VicPol and Midsumma’s shameful platforming of pinkwashing Corporations have earned their Pride…It’s always been a riot. Honour our history. Stand up for the oppressed.”
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CRYM denied that paint bombs were used. “There were no paint bombs… there was one bottle of pink paint thrown only onto our own protestors.”
An Instagram account, that goes by the handle QueerKillJoys, had posted about their intention to disrupt the march.
In a post, QueerKillJoys said they were a “collective of queers formed to destroy pinkwashing and assimilation. There is no pride on the stolen lands of so-called Australia and its ongoing genocide of First Nations’ Peoples. There is nothing to celebrate in genocide against Palestine.”
Victoria Police has been officially participating in the Midsumma Pride march for the past 22 years. In recent years there have been calls to stop police officers in uniform marching in the Pride parade, over the police force’s past treatment of the LGBTQI community.
Midsumma CEO Praises Staff
In a statement on Monday, Midsumma CEO Karen Bryant expressed disappointment at the events at the Pride march.
“Midsumma expresses profound distress over the disruption and escalation that occurred at Pride March on Sunday, on what was otherwise a wonderful event. Witnessing such incidents on a day meant for celebrating pride and unity is disheartening for all of our communities,” said Bryant.
“We express our deep disappointment in people from both sides of this situation who actively escalated the situation,” Bryant said.
Midsumma praised its staff for managing and deescalating the situation. “Our immediate focus is directed towards providing support for injured staff members, and we are still collating and viewing documentation of the incidents that occurred on the day.”
“We wish to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to establishing a safe, supportive, and inclusive space for all members of our diverse LGBTQIA+ communities, their families, and friends. Feeling safe, supported, and included is a fundamental human right, and it is disheartening that the events that occurred at the Pride March did not uphold these principles,” added Bryant.
The Victorian government came out in support of the officers, with Police Minister Anthony Carbines telling the media that protestors who allegedly attacked the officers would face action.
“The government condemns the behaviour of a small minority of people who chose to attack police… You don’t get to bring your views to the table and discuss them or promote them when you’re acting like a thug,” said Carbines.
Minister For Equality Harriet Shing condemned the “disgraceful behaviour” of the protestors.
“We have achieved so much change in recent years and that includes significant changes to institutions that have caused us pain or harm in the past,” Shing said in a statement.
“These VicPol members and staff showed up to be part of Pride alongside thousands of others and their courage in being proudly and openly themselves while serving others deserves recognition and respect,” said Shing. The Minister said that she had spoken to Patton and “asked him to pass on my respect and support for those LGBTIQA+ police members and staff and to express my dismay about what they were subjected to.”
“Being an openly queer person is something that often requires a lot of practice and courage. Many of us have faced rejection from our own families and many of us struggle with the weight of persistent shame. That’s why it is vitally important that our chosen families – and our broader LGBTIQA+ communities – embrace and support us and that we never feel unsafe, or ashamed, in settings like the Midsumma Pride March.”
Shing expressed hope for next year’s march – the 30th anniversary of the Midsumma Pride march. “I hope that queer members of Victoria Police and their families will again march right alongside us,” added Shing.