Activists Are Demanding Victoria Police Stop Marching During Pride
"Their presence makes many more people in our communities unsafe."
More than 100 people have signed an open letter urging Victoria Police to stay out of Pride this year.
Organisers demanded uniformed officers cease participation in the Melbourne’s Midsumma march, known for being the event with the largest attendance every year. Victoria Police have been marching during Pride since 2002.
The open letter stated that while everyone is welcome in a personal capacity, police should no longer be centred in the march, especially when so many community members are against their presence there.
“We believe that all LGBTIQA+ people deserve to be safe at our Pride March,” the group wrote. “While some people can safely interact with police, their presence makes many more people in our communities unsafe.”
“Policing and police violence are everyday experiences for many people, especially Aboriginal people, Torres Strait Islander people, African Australians, people of colour, migrants, trans and gender diverse people, people living with HIV, sex workers, poor people, people with disabilities, people who use drugs, and people without a home.”
A survey of nearly 1500 people by the Victorian Pride Lobby last November revealed that 80 percent don’t believe the police understand issues that impact their community, while the same number of respondents didn’t feel safe with a large police presence at community events.
At the same time, 60 percent said police shouldn’t march in uniform at Pride March, but for trans and gender diverse participants, the figure was almost nine out of ten people.
In response to similar criticism last year, Victoria Police told Star Observer that they “take great pride in representing the organisation in a formal manner” and march in uniform as a sign of respect. “Victoria Police strives to earn the trust and confidence of the entire Victorian community,” said a spokesperson.
“Pride March should be led by and for LGBTIQA+ communities,” the open letter read. “We do not believe that police serve our interests by participating against community wishes.”
Midsumma arts and cultural festival runs between January 23 and February 13, with the Pride March taking place on Sunday, February 6.