Several major supporters and sponsors have pulled out of New Zealand’s largest pride parade after organisers banned police officers from marching in uniform.
Two weeks ago, the Auckland Pride Board announced they would not allow police officers to march in uniform at their next parade in February next year, because they do not “currently meet the degree of safety and awareness of intersectionality required by our rainbow communities”.
Organiser Cissy Rock said on Wednesday some march participants felt unsafe marching alongside uniformed police and corrections staff and the institutions had “more work to do” with the LGBTIQ community.
“True allyship by institutions to our community is listening to its affected members and compromising where possible,” Rock said.
“If members from our community are highlighting concerns around discrimination by those institutions, we expect them to work to address them, and that may include making compromises regarding their participation at the pride parade.
“The Pride Parade is so much more than its corporate sponsors or government institutions. It is about our rainbow community coming together to both celebrate and fight for a future where everyone is free from systemic discrimination.”
New Zealand Police Senior District Liaison Officer Tracy Phillips said the force was extremely disappointed by the board’s decision, saying at the time if police are not welcome in uniform then “we’re not going to force ourselves on anybody.”
But the decision has sparked division in the community and prompted mass withdrawals of supporters and calls for the Auckland pride parade board to be sacked, the Guardian reported.
Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust, an LGBTIQ charity, withdrew $10,000 of the Auckland Pride Parade following the uniformed police ban.
The charity’s chair Gresham Bradley, who founded the parade, said the the Auckland Pride Board’s choice to ban police in uniform as appearing to be “driven by a small and vociferous minority in the community”.
“[The uniformed police ban] is contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of the Rainbow Community including those who have for many years fought hard for the rights we hold today in NZ,” he said.
The New Zealand Defence Force also since withdrawn from the parade, saying it does not feel “comfortable” joining an event that excludes other uniformed services.
A spokesperson for Westpac New Zealand said in a statement the bank would not be taking part in next year’s parade.
“The decision was made by employees who represent and advocate for the rainbow community at Westpac,” he said.
“They have advised us the recent decision regarding uniformed police seems contrary to the principles of openness and inclusiveness that we value at Westpac.”
Vodafone’s LGBTIQ employee network in New Zealand also announced they wouldn’t be marching in next year’s parade, and urged the Auckland Pride board to backtrack on the ban.
Officers can march in plain clothes
A spokesperson for the Auckland Pride Board said they were “committed to ensuring that the Auckland Pride Parade is a celebration of rainbow community visibility.”
“We welcome any and all rainbow people to be a part of the Auckland Pride Parade, including members of the NZ Police, who are invited to march in plain or fancy clothes,” the spokesperson said.
Several other pride parades around the world have considered bans on uniformed police officers, with Pride Toronto banning police from marching last year.
In late October, a controversial push from group Pride in Protest to ban the Liberal party and NSW Police from marching in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was defeated at the organisation’s AGM.
(Photo by Auckland Pride Festival/Facebook)