More than 100 queer Victorians have signed an open letter urging Victoria Police to not march as an organisation at Midsumma this year.
Midsumma is Victoria’s long-running annual LGBTIQ arts and culture festival. It kicked off last weekend and runs into next month.
The festival’s annual Pride March is on again on Fitzroy Street in St Kilda on Sunday, February 6.
The new open letter, titled No Police At Pride, was released on Tuesday. Its signatories call for uniformed officers “to cease participating as an organisation” in the Pride March.
The letter says while everyone is welcome in a personal capacity, the signatories “call for the decentring of police.”
“We believe that all LGBTIQA+ people deserve to be safe at our Pride March,” the letter reads.
“While some people can safely interact with police, their presence makes many more people in our communities unsafe.
“Policing and police violence are everyday experiences for many people, especially Aboriginal people, Torres Strait Islander people, African Australians, people of colour, migrants, trans and gender diverse people, people living with HIV, sex workers, poor people, people with disabilities, people who use drugs, and people without a home.”
Today 100+ Queer Victorian artists, activists, academics, lawyers, & writers have called on Victoria Police to cease participating at Pride. Read the letter here:https://t.co/nqSKR13ccZ
— Joshua Badge (@joshuabadge) January 24, 2022
Police participation actively excludes the most vulnerable among us. We deserve to feel safe at our own events and so we’re calling on Vic Police to cease participating in Pride
— Joshua Badge (@joshuabadge) January 25, 2022
Surveys found low levels of trust in police
The letter points to ABS General Social Survey data that found only half of gay, lesbian and bisexual people feel they can trust the police.
Moreover, a 2020 Victorian Pride Lobby survey found four out of five respondents don’t trust Victoria Police to use their powers reasonably and half don’t trust officers with personal information
“Three in four respondents to a 2020 survey conducted by the Victorian Pride Lobby believed that Victoria Police should not march in uniform,” the letter reads.
“For trans and gender diverse participants the figure was higher at almost nine out of 10 people.”
The letter concludes, “Pride March should be led by and for LGBTIQA+ communities.
“We do not believe that police serve our interests by participating against community wishes.”
The letter came in response to the 2020 Vic Pride Lobby survey showing 3 of 4 community members did not want police marching in uniform. This letter is important to elevate and support the voices of community members who feel unsafe with police at pride 2/3
— Frank Gafa (Lubly_Unicorn) (@FrankGafa) January 25, 2022
Being an advocate means listening to and representing your community. Our @VicPrideLobby report found that 3 in 4 queer people do not want police marching in uniform at Pride. I’m proud to have signed this letter, and grateful to @joshuabadge & @FrankGafa for their advocacy 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ https://t.co/tE65kSgYFG
— Liam Elphick (@LiamElphick_) January 25, 2022
Very proud to be one of the signatories of this letter. Our pride events need to be safe and welcoming for all members of our community. Police participating as a group is a barrier to safe participation for those who have been targeted by police. #NoCopsAtPride https://t.co/dS9aRolDD8
— PK (@paulkidd) January 24, 2022
Victoria Police ‘strives to earn community trust and confidence’
Speaking last year, a Victoria Police spokesperson said of police participation, “Victoria Police cherishes the opportunity to celebrate and show our support for LGBTIQ communities and our own employees at the Pride March every year.
“Participating in the event is a proud reminder that the organisation is representative of the community.
“Police take great pride in representing the organisation in a formal manner. [This] includes marching in uniform, as a sign of respect to the communities we serve.
“Victoria Police strives to earn the trust and confidence of the entire Victorian community.”
Midsumma special event to celebrate state’s milestone
This year Midsumma runs from January 23 until February 13 in Melbourne.
In a few weeks, the Victorian government and Midsumma teamed up for a huge new street party, Melbourne Pride.
The event, originally planned for last year, commemorates the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
The inaugural party will take over the Gertrude Street Precinct in Melbourne’s inner north on February 13.
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