Below is my personal statement / account. Since publishing, other statements have also been written:
I formally registered the walking group Queers Against Cuts for the Brighton Pride Parade in July, paying the £60 fee out of my own pocket and from a donation from a local trade union. Members of the group were invited from local political groups, trade unions and activist communities, to march in solidarity together against government cuts to public services and jobs. Pride began in Stonewall in 1969 as a protest against police harassment of gay and trans people in New York. As Government cuts to jobs and public services are affecting LGBTQ people disproportionately, for many reasons, this is an important reason for us to march against cuts in pride today. In my application email I explained that we would be a collective of different groups and individuals marching together, to check that this was acceptable with Pride organisers, and my application was accepted. On Thursday 30 August I was sent the parade running order (read that here: 2012 Parade Lamp Post Order) and we were pleased to discover we’d be between the National Union of Teachers, who also had an anti-cuts theme, and performance group Champagne Anarchists, at post 50.
Last Wednesday I received a call from Trevor Edwards, pride organiser, who informed me the police had been in touch with concerns about our group being a protest. Trevor said he had reassured the police we were all formally registered and there was no reason to treat us differently.
Last Thursday I received a call from the Police Protest Liaison Officer PC Frank to introduce herself and to say good luck with our banner making (i.e. to let me know she was reading our Facebook Group) and to ask for my email to send me information (which hasn’t arrived yet). I explained I had formally registered the group for the parade with no need for different treatment from the other groups.
Today I turned up to register and collected my number 50 sign (see that here). Here I was told we’d been moved to the back, but as they didn’t know why and didn’t have the paperwork for number 58, they said we could stay in our original position and they would inform the mayor the order was as originally planned when we went past.
So we all got together behind NUT at point 50 who were pleased we were marching with them and we shared accessories!
Then a Pride Organiser came and told us we were in the wrong position and had to move to the back. I informed him that the registration people had said we could stay where we were, showed him my official ’50′ sign so he went away.
Another Pride Organiser came and I explained again, and he said we were fine where we were and could stay.
Another Pride Organiser came and said we had to move back, and when we asked why, became very aggessive and threatened if we didn’t move we would get thrown off the parade. I asked him to check with the previous organisers who had said we could stay.
Then a police officer came with the final Pride Organiser and said we had all been thrown off the march and had to be removed. At this point I broke down in tears as I had put so much hard work into organising the group. At this point I asked everybody to move to the back but was told we still couldn’t join the parade.
Then Caroline Lucas from the Green Party came and spoke to the police and Pride Organisers in solidarity with us. Finally we were allowed to march.
About 100 yards into the march on Marine Parade, some latecomers to our group arrived, including a breast-feeding woman with her baby and others with children. I was told by the Pride Organiser that if I didn’t make them leave our whole group would be blocked. I explained I couldn’t force people to go anywhere. Suddenly a row of police on horseback and foot ran into the middle of our group, and I was told I had to personally identify who was officially in the group to be let through. As this was mainly organised online I didn’t know everybody’s faces. I managed to get most people out of the kettle but around 15 people were left behind. Again I was in tears and others were close to it, having been part of the group organising from the start and suddenly kettled for no reason.
[edit: just read that police are denying a kettle. Here is a photo of the kettle with Queers Against Cuts banner in the middle of it:]
Finally we continued to march. Throughout the parade, any friends or latecomers who tried to join us were pulled from the parade by police. I managed to identify some friends to keep them in with us but others were blocked from joining us.
I’m very hurt and upset at how I was treated and spoken to by Pride, how the rest of the group were treated, how we were given no reason for our sudden relegation to the back, and our mistreatment by the police. Being surrounded by police on horses and on foot was unnecessary and too heavy handed. I was told other latecomers were allowed to join other groups such as The Conservatives. I believe the only reason we were treated this way is because we had political banners which challenged the status quo of a corporate sponsorship of Pride, and it has really shown the lack of political solidarity from Pride Organisers.
This is my personal statement of my experience but I will be writing a formal statement from the Socialist Party of which I am a member, and asking groups and individuals to sign it once I get chance.
Well, this has inspired me to make the group bigger and even more organised next year! Who’s with me?
[Here we are marching along just before half of us got kettled:]
On Friday 20 January, I organised a demonstration against Tory MP Nadine Dorries’ Sex Education (required content) Bill 185, and announced a victory for the campaign mid way through the protest, to cheers from the crowd. It was reported that the Bill had suddenly been withdrawn from the parliamentary order paper (schedule), effectively killing it dead.
Around 250 people turned up to protest against the Bill, which would have required girls aged 13-16 to be given compulsory abstinence lessons, as part of their sex education. Over 2,000 people joined a campaign against the Bill on Facebook. As well as The Socialist Party and Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, the opposition was supported by the British Humanist Association, Abortion Rights UK, Education for Choice, the National Secular Society, Feminist Fightback, Queers Against the Cuts, Slut Means Speak Up, and others.
The Bill had many problems – it was sexist by being just for girls, and abstinence-only education has been proven not to work in reducing unplanned pregnancies and STIs. As the majority of comprehensive sex and relationships education (SRE) is not currently compulsory, many schools, particularly academies and religious schools, don’t have to teach comprehensive SRE, meaning that the Bill effectively could have meant abstinence-only education for many.
Although the Bill had little chance of passing its second reading due to scheduling, opposition was rallied in order to raise awareness of the need for statutory, evidence based, comprehensive SRE.
However, Dorries is threatening her intentions might become part of another bill she puts through, so whilst celebrating the success in defeating this Bill, campaigners are keeping an eye on Dorries and her Tory Government, as we know we haven’t heard the last of their attacks on womens’ rights, education and sexual liberation.
On 20 January 2012, Nadine Dorries’ proposed amendment to sex education, Bill 185, which suggests GIRLS be taught abstinence, is due to get a second reading in parliament.
The bill is sexist as it positions girls as being solely responsible for decisions about sexual activity and boys as having no responsibility for ensuring that sex is mutually wanted, fully consenting and safe. Dorries even said that teaching children to ‘say no’ could reduce child abuse. This victim blaming is dangerous, incorrect, and offensive to survivors of abuse.
Abstinence education on its own is ineffective in reducing teenage pregnancies and STI rates. Good quality comprehensive Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) should already explicitly address the option of abstinence as part of decision-making about sex, and safer sex.
SRE should be informative and fact based. Some of the most important bits of SRE, which really helps young people to take responsibility for themselves and make healthy decisions (namely the relationships and communication aspects), are optional for schools and this bill will not change that. If this bill passes, some schools could end up only teaching the biology of reproduction and STIs (within the science curriculum) plus abstinence.
If Dorries really wanted to help young women to stay safe and healthy she would be advocating for statutory, comprehensive sex and relationships education for all young people, of all genders, and in all schools whether they are faith schools, academies, free schools or community schools. Her party in Government has already stated that they have no intention of making SRE statutory.