20 Nov 2018

Auckland Pride Parade police uniform ban: 'We're not backtracking'

10:36 am on 20 November 2018

The Auckland Pride Festival board are facing a vote of no confidence after their decision to ban police uniforms at next year's event but board chair Cissy Rock says they won't back down.

Police at Wellington's Pride Parade

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

Police have been told they can march in next year's parade, but not in uniform.

It's a decision that has fiercely divided Auckland's LGBTIQ communities but Auckland Pride chair Cissy Rock told Morning Report the board won't back down.

"We're not backtracking on our need to find a way forward and we just think there are so many ways that the police could participate in the parade and that's what we really want," she said.

A Special General Meeting (SGM) will be held in the coming weeks and it is believed some members are instigating a vote of no confidence in the board.

Ms Rock said the responsible thing is to not make any big decisions before the SGM.

"We're put in place to make sure the most marginalised voices are heard, the majority rules isn't something the queer community has ever used and if we had we wouldn't have the kind of rights we have now," she said.

Before the decision was made, seven hui were held by the board to get community feedback on the issue.

"It became really apparent that there are members of our community that didn't feel like they could be included in Pride while the police were marching in uniform because the uniform's a symbol of an institution that has a long way to go by their own admission."

At a heated community hui on on Sunday night called to discuss the issue, People Against Prisons Aotearoa spokesperson Emilie Rākete, who supports the ban, said one man repeatedly shouted and interrupted people speaking te reo and he spat in her face when she suggested he leave.

Opponents of the decision walked out when they were told the board would not reconsider its position and a second group walked out when things become heated.

Ms Rock said following the hui she has been approached by a number of people who have changed their mind and now support the board's decision.

The board is still hopeful that the police will change their mind and march in plain clothes, she said.

There are a lot of people in the community who support the police, she said, acknowledging that queer police have had to fight for visibility within the force.

She said the community needs to find a way to resolve the issue together and support both marginalised community members and LGBTIQ members of the police.

"I know people get really polarised and really stick in their own positions during a time like this so I've been saying come on, let's listen, let's look at moving forward, let's not get fixed, let's not get defensive."

One sponsor has made it known that they may pull out of the parade, she said.

Former MP and transgender activist Georgina Beyer wants police to walk in uniform.

She told Morning Report LGBTIQ people in the police have fought hard to have the right to march in uniform.

"A lot of work has gone in over the years to build good faith between organisations such as the Police and the Defence Force regarding rainbow issues."

She said the decision is ill-thought-out, disappointing and destructive.

"There was a time when police were not our friends per say but those times have changed and we've moved on... I fear that there will be a chain reaction now from other organisations such as the Defence Force for example who may in solidarity with their police colleagues choose not to participate."

She said there are other mechanisms to support those who feel unsafe.

"Good heaven, do they feel unsafe every time they walk down the street, these people are in their positions to protect the public."

The community needs to build bridges, she said.

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