Hundreds have signed an open letter from activist group Pride in Protest calling on Melbourne’s Midsumma to ban police officers and correctional officers from the city’s annual Pride March.
The Midsumma Pride March 2021 kicks off this Sunday morning in St Kilda (May 23), as part of the annual LGBTIQ festival in Victoria.
A contingent of Victoria Police officers will march in a parade grouping that also includes emergency, fire and ambulance services and surf lifesavers.
However hundreds of individuals and community groups have signed the new letter from Sydney-based activist group Pride in Protest.
“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 reads.
“Black people are disproportionately policed, subject to violence and overincarcerated, leading to the crisis of Black deaths in custody in Australia.
“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.”
The group characterises police participation in the march as “more to do with exploiting our community for good PR than any change to the systemic racism, queerphobia and transphobia embedded in the criminal legal system.”
“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,” it reads.
“We must actively ban police from our events and prioritise the physical and emotional safety of minority communities impacted by the prison-industrial complex.”
Victoria Police liaison and LGBTIQ officers march in Midsumma Pride March
In an FAQ section of the Midsumma website, organisers previously explained Victoria Police’s presence at the march.
“Victoria Police have an official presence at Midsumma Pride March, and a contingent in the march,” they wrote.
“The GLLO (Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers) and Vic Police march group, for Victoria Police employees who identify as LGBTAIQ+ and their allies.
“As with all Victoria’s large-scale events, organised protests and parades, police officers are present as part of the event permit, and to deal with external threats of terrorism, or any situation that may become unsafe for event attendees.”
Victorian Pride Lobby backs Pride in Protest’s call for police ban
The Victorian Pride Lobby have also signed Pride in Protest’s open letter.
The Pride Lobby has backed a ban on “police officers and corrections officers from marching at Pride in uniform.”
Co-convener Nevena Spirovska said “protest is the backbone” of the LGBTIQ community and said Midsumma should listen.
“The LGBTIQA+ community has a fraught history with the police and this is especially so for the most marginalised among us,” Spirovska said.
“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.
“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.
She said the Pride Lobby is open to working with Midsumma to make Pride “a safe and inclusive space for all.”
Victoria Police respond to calls for Pride March ban
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the force acknowledged concerns around police participating in the annual Pride March in uniform.
“Victoria Police cherishes the opportunity to celebrate and show our support for LGBTIQ communities and our own LGBTIQ employees at Pride March every year and for the past 19 years,” she said.
“Participating in this inclusive event is a proud reminder that Victoria Police is representative of the community we serve.
“It also represents an opportunity for police to publicly show our commitment to rectifying wrongdoings of the past.
“We are committed to further improving and remain steadfast in our commitment to building strong relationships with LGBTIQ communities – relationships built on respect, trust and fairness.
“Victoria Police strives to earn the trust and confidence of the entire Victorian community.
“Our network of more than 400 LGBTIQ Liaison Officers work tirelessly to enhance the mutual trust and respect between LGBTIQ communities and police.”
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