19 Nov 2018

Future of Pride Parade in doubt over police uniform stoush

9:34 pm on 19 November 2018

Next year's Auckland Pride Parade could be at risk as some partners and sponsors rethink their funding after a stoush over the ban on uniformed police.

Police at Wellington's Pride Parade

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

Earlier this month the board of Auckland Pride announced it would allow police to join the 2019 parade - just not in uniform.

The Pride board says its rainbow communities repeatedly raised issues and concerns about the police through a series of hui.

The visibility of the police uniform, they said, made some feel less safe about taking part, so a decision was made to compromise.

A further meeting was held in Grey Lynn last night to discuss the decision.

People Against Prisons Aotearoa are one of those in favour of it - pointing to what they say is a growing problem of police brutality against Māori.

"They want to use Pride as a PR opportunity. People against Prisons Aotearoa says when you stop beating and tasering and pepper spraying and shooting Māori, then you can use gay people as a PR stunt," spokesperson Emilie Rākete said.

She spoke at the "immensely tense" meeting, and said one man repeatedly shouted and interrupted people speaking te reo.

"Finally everybody was sick of him and the facilitator asked him to leave and the crowd also joined in.

"So he got out of his chair, he walked over to where I was sitting and stood over me screaming in my face that Māori asked for it when we were murdered by the police, shaking his hand in my face and yelling at me.

"When I told him maybe he should consider just leaving he started to spit in my face."

Max Tweedie, a member of the LGBTQi community, agreed with the decision and said the meeting was a chance to present the facts.

"The people who opposed the board's decision, they were there to yell and kick up a fuss and as soon as they weren't getting their way, they couldn't vote the board out, they all left and that was disappointing because I thought the opportunity was there to listen and my views were certainly challenged by the people who spoke."

Michael Stevens was among many frustrated opponents of the board's decision, and left after the scuffle.

There'd been an earlier walk out when the board said that they were not going to reconsider their decision.

He said around a third of the attendees were in favour of the police marching in uniform.

"Looking through the constitution of Pride under their charitable purposes they have a statement about being inclusive of the entirety of the rainbow groups and that must include Police," Mr Stevens said.

"They seem to me to be in breach of their consistution if they continue to take this stand.

"So I think they need to go back and reconsider their position, I don't want to see them leave I want to see them do better."

He said members had instigated a vote of no confidence in the board- with a Special General Meeting to be held in the coming weeks.

"Some people have called for the board to resign, some people have called for Pride to be postponed next year.

"I don't know how widely held those views are but there's an awful lot of anger and distress over the whole situation and I think it could have been dealt with much better than it has been."

"I think there's a chance the parade might not happen."

Gresham Bradley was one of the co-chairs of Auckland Pride through 2013, in its first year relaunching the festival and parade.

He's critical of the decision and said there were deep concerns about its impact.

"I think this is now causing sponsors, this is the greatest risk, that sponsors will re-evaluate their position on sponsoring the festival and parade and that people will consider whether they wish to participate in the parade at all or on a reduced level.

He said he understood sponsors were already in discussions about their involvement and he feared it could cause "irreparable damage".

"Pride is actually at a point where it has attracted significant corporate sponsorship and participate both in the festival and parade and of course if that goes away on what basis can Pride actually continue to exist? Because this event costs a lot of money to put on."

Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust chair Gresham Bradley said the trust board were concerned about the debate and would meet this evening to decide on Pride funding.

The Ponsonby Business Association said its board was also considering its options.

Bear New Zealand, an inclusive social group, posted on its Facebook page this afternoon that it would now not be participating in the Pride Parade.

Auckland Pride Festival Board chair Cissy Rock declined to comment ahead of a board meeting tonight.

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