12 Nov 2018

Calls for Pride boycott over uniform ban

6:24 pm on 12 November 2018

The Auckland Pride Parade which takes centre stage on Ponsonby Road is one of the most visible celebrations of inclusiveness in the country.

Police at Wellington's Pride Parade

Police at Wellington's Pride Parade Photo: RNZ/ Reesh Lyon

But that image is under threat after the Auckland Pride Board said it would ban police from wearing their uniforms at the parade.

The decision is dividing the LGBTQI community - some say the ban needs to be removed while others say the police have a long way to go before they should join the parade.

Thousands of people line up on Ponsonby Rd for the annual Pride Festival each year - but next year police and Department of Corrections staff will not be able to attend wearing their uniforms.

The Auckland Pride Board said it made the decision last week because the police did not meet the safety needs of rainbow communities.

Sarah Peel's father worked as a police officer for 40 years and is one of her most loyal supporters - walking by her side in previous pride parades.

"He has always supported gay rights, even before I was born and even before I was out. He was always a major ally to the LGBT community," Ms Peel said.

And she felt for those police officers who will not be able to express their identity and sexuality at the parade.

"To tell them that their service isn't good enough, to be proud of that and their sexual orientation or their gender identity is taking away part their identity."

At this stage Ms Peel plans to boycott the pride event.

But for Emilie Rākete from People Against Prisons Aotearoa the ban has been a long time coming.

"It's a really positive step that the Pride Parade has acknowledged that New Zealand's Police Force has a lot - a lot - of work to do before they should be celebrated in a parade of this kind."

Ms Rākete believes the pride festival should not be about looking for favour from different organisations and businesses.

"Pride I think should always be something which is confrontational, something which is funny, something that's exciting.

"Seeing it turned into a parade for ads for banks, businesses and the police force to me, as a lesbian woman, is actually really insulting to what the spirit of pride should be in the first place."

One Auckland Pride Board member, Matty Jackson, has already stood down over the ban.

Josh Holton supports the police taking part in the parade - and he's signed a petition with more than 500 signatures looking to overturn the ban.

"We don't need to turn them away - our community is about inclusion and acceptance there's LGBQTI members within ranks of the police," Mr Holton said.

He understands there are sections of the community who continue to feel marginalised by the police - but he said closing them out wasn't the answer.

"It's not about diminishing the reality of what happened literally only a couple of decades ago - but the police are working with us today."

In a statement the Auckland Pride board chair Cissy Rock said it's working with the police to find a solution.

Police Inspector Tracy Phillips, the senior district liaison officer for diversity, said calls for the boycott are "humbling" - and the police were in talks with Pride Board about what steps to take next.

The Auckland pride festival is set to take place in February 2019.

*Additional reporting Maxine Jacobs

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