Feature & Video by Carolyn Skelton.
The 2016 Auckland Pride Parade celebrated 30 years since gay male sex was made legal in 1986.
The parade provided a positive face to LGBTI people, but glossed over many inequalities, and much brutal discrimination that still impacts on LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, intersexed) people.
No Pride in Prisons protested against police inclusion in the parade, because of the harassment and brutal discrimination of LGBTI people by the police and prison system.
Pride parades, once called Gay Pride, arose out of protests against brutal oppression and discrimination of gay men. In 1969, gay men at the Stonewall Inn in New York, retaliated against police harassment.
Riots and demonstrations followed. Gay liberation gathered steam throughout the 1970s and 80s. Gay Pride marches were protest marches on which LGBTI people bravely outed themselves in public, at a time when they risked discrimination at school, at work, in housing, on the streets, and all walks of life.
In Auckland Hero Parade was an annual event from 1992 to 2001. It’s demise was due to funding and debt problems. In 2012, National Party MP Nikki Kaye began working towards a new Pride Parade, with the support of the PM, John Key. The rationale for the parade focused on social and economic benefits, with the boost to tourism and the economy being foregrounded.
The latest Pride Parade seems to be doing OK with funding. A lot of this is probably due to the sliding-scale of fees from participants in the parade. [See the entry requirements] Commercial enterprises pay the highest fees (minimum of $5,000). The only requirements are that they do not have a record of discriminating against queer people, and that they express support of the Rainbow community. They are in fact, commercial sponsors that benefit from the brand association with Pride. It is likely they are focussed on attracting business from the better off LGBTI people.
Rainbow community groups or individuals pay a minimum of $200, and charities, government or political groups pay $500 (base fee).
This commercialisation and corporatisation of the parade, while promoting positive images of queer people, tends to marginalise the less powerful LGBTI people: those on the precarious edge of social and economic life. Continuing harassment, brutalisation, discrimination, and negative social impacts, are played down.
No Pride in Prisons focus on some of the most marginalised and voiceless of LGBTI people: those who are on the receiving end of violence and brutal treatment by police and prison staff. Consequently they object to police being able to march in the parade, albeit to represent lesbian and gay police.
The police participation straddles a fault-line in the Pride entrants’ requirements. They are there to represent LGBTI people positively, while the police force as a whole has a patchy record of treating queer people badly.
Minister of Police Judith Collins turned up to support the police and march in the parade with them. Again, this sits uncomfortably with the Pride parade requirements. Collins did vote for the marriage equality bill.
But her record generally is not that supportive of the Rainbow community. She is on record as positively supporting Cameron Slater and his WhaleOil blog, while not being in any way critical of the blog’s record of the use and condoning of homophobic language and verbal abuse.
At Pride 2016, the Labour Party celebrated the fact that it was Labour MP Fran Wilde’s 1986 Bill that resulted in the legalisation of gay male sex (it had never been illegal for lesbian sex). The Labour Party celebrated this in Pride 2016.
No Pride for Prisons organised a march from Karangahape to Ponsonby Road, which anyone could going, free of cost. Some of the protesters got onto the street, which resulted in the parade being delayed. This protest got a lot of attention from people with cameras, including the press. Meanwhile, many in the crowd expressed their disapproval of the protesters, cheering the arrival of the police.
Some of the parade motorcyclists tried to make noise to drown out the protesters. The protesters chanted “We won’t be silenced”
A woman explained to me why she joined the protest:
“So last year I came to watch the Pride Parade with my mates. I was so upset because it was the ANZ, the BNZ and all the banks, and then it was the army, and then it was corrections, and then it was the police. And I just felt like the whole thing had been over-taken. And whereas, you know, 20 years ago, it used to be the whole community marching down the road. Now it’s become a spectacle for people who watch from the sidelines.”
The banks, various businesses, the army and corrections were all in the parade this year.
The protesters chanted:
“Army of the rich, enemy of the poor”
“It’s not your parade”; “Shame, shame, shame”; “Whose got the power- We’ve got the power – What kind of power? – People power”.
There were some small signs of protest in the parade. Surfers had a placard on their float that said: “No Way TPPA”. Many carried the current NZ flag, indicating their preference in the upcoming referendum. I saw no alternative candidate flags.
The main focus of mainstream news reports of the 2016 Auckland Pride parade, was on the protest. They like drama and conflict.
Gains were celebrated in Pride 2016. No pride for Prisons carried on the tradition of the original Gay Pride protests, representing those still suffering discrimination.