23 Nov 2018

Pride parade: 'LGBTQI people will be the ones left to march'

6:27 pm on 23 November 2018

As sponsors and participants pull out of Auckland's Pride parade, one supporter says there is no reason why the individuals within these companies and institutions shouldn't still take part.

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Photo: Facebook / Pride Festival

The Auckland Pride board, after three months of consultation with LGBTQI community members, decided that the police could march in the parade next year so long as they aren't in uniform.

The board invited members of the police to march in plain or fancy clothes.

However police said if they couldn't march in uniform they would not march at all, and their decision to withdraw from the parade has divided the LGBTQI community.

SkyCity is the latest organisation to withdraw support for the parade today, joining Vodafone, BNZ, ANZ, Westpac, NZME, Fletcher Building, the Ponsonby Business Association, NZDF and the Rainbow New Zealand Trust.

Emilie Rākete from People Against Prisons Aotearoa is one of the people who believes the police should not participate in uniform.

She told Morning Report Pride is an opportunity to try and make the police change the way they deal with Māori.

And she said statistics show Māori are more likely to be victims of police brutality.

Institutional racism is one of the reasons some people are giving for why they would rather the police walk in plain clothes.

The Auckland Pride board said the discussions with the community revealed that while there is goodwill toward police, "as an institution they do not currently meet the degree of safety and awareness of intersectionality required by our rainbow communities".

Ms Rākete said she would have been happy with the police walking in the parade if they weren't in uniform.

"It's a compromise and I think it's a really generous one which they should have taken."

The Pride parade is a huge PR exercise that the police desperately want to put its branding on, she said.

"The question shouldn't be who's in the police, what does the police look like, is the police branding inclusive enough, do the police have a rainbow police car? It should be what do the police do?"

She said: "If the police are so dedicated to diversity and inclusion and not being racist then beating up Māori people less shouldn't be a particularly odious demand placed on them."

People Against Prisons Aotearoa, which Ms Rākete is part of, is a prison abolitionist organisation that was created in 2015 to protest the treatment of transgender people in prisons. The group regularly holds rallies and also runs a support group for previously incarcerated LGBTQI people.

A Māori academic has also come to the defence of the Auckland Pride Board's decision to ban police wearing their uniform.

Te Kotahi Research Institute associate professor Leonie Pihama was not surprised at the reaction to the ban and said the police force as an institution needed major systemic changes.

She said the police were not victims, but Māori LGBTQI were the victims of homophobic and transphobic oppression.

With the number of groups and businesses pulling out of the parade increasing, including the New Zealand Defence Force who also usually walk in uniform, she said LGBTQI people will be the ones left to march.

"There is no reason that gay people in the NZDF can't come to Pride, there's no reason that the institution, the organisations that these people are a part of, need to be represented ... when their actions, like those of the police, have been extremely racist."

Of those businesses that have pulled out, Vodafone's LGBTQI workers said they would not take part in the parade unless the Pride board lifted the ban.

The company's Rainbow Whānau chair Darren Mendonsa said they could not participate in an event that applied different rules for different groups.

"Ultimately we believed that we should walk the value of inclusion, which in this case is not working at all if the police were not allowed to wear uniforms at the parade."

Robbie Ellis from ANZ's Pride Network said the bank's workers had always found the parade to be fun and inclusive.

But given the conflict, it was no longer confident that going would be a positive experience.

Mr Ellis said ANZ would continue to support the rainbow community, but its resources will be focused on other events.

Auckland Pride board chair Cissy Rock said they were put in place to make sure the most marginalised voices are heard and will not backtrack on their need to find a way forward.

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.

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