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Equality Network / Scottish Trans Alliance Statement on Arrests during Pride in Glasgow

Content Note: violence, hate crime

Pride marches exist primarily to call loudly and vibrantly for changes to make the world a better and safer place for all LGBTI people. Pride marches have always been vital protests as well as opportunities to celebrate our diverse lives, relationships and history. The 1969 Stonewall Inn riot against police oppression is the pivotal event commemorated by Pride marches. Strongly worded placards criticising the police and other institutions have often been carried by Pride marchers throughout the decades.

The ways in which police have engaged with Pride marches around the world vary greatly. We have trans friends whose lives were saved by Serbian police officers when far-right extremists attacked Belgrade Pride with petrol bombs in 2010. We have trans friends who were tear-gassed and shot at with rubber bullets by Turkish police officers this year when Istanbul Pride was banned. Within Scotland, we are fortunate never to have experienced either of these two extremes during Pride marches. Trans people in Scotland hold a wide range of views about the police and their engagement with Pride marches, from opposition, to those who see police inclusion in Pride as a sign of progress made. Although police attitudes towards trans people have improved considerably over the last decade, Equality Network / Scottish Trans Alliance continues to be involved in assisting marginalised trans people in Scotland who have had traumatic and discriminatory experiences interacting with the police and wider criminal justice system. The debate on the role of Police Scotland at Pride marches should not come as a surprise. We support the rights of people to peacefully express differing views.

We are concerned that on Saturday three trans people were arrested and charged with breach of the peace for protesting Police Scotland marching as the first bloc of the Pride Glasgow march. Our float was briefly near the incident but the speed and sightlines meant we did not realise at the time what was happening. From the information we currently have available to us, we have reason to believe that several trans people, including the three who were arrested, were attempting to protest at the head of the march carrying a cotton banner stating “No Pride in Police” and using a megaphone to shout various anti-police statements. We note that there have been very similar protests at some Prides in England this summer, including protests at the London and Leeds Pride marches, but there were no arrests or charges there. We have therefore raised concerns to Police Scotland about the way this protest was handled by police, including level of force, arrests and charges.

In a separate incident, two other people were arrested, held overnight, and charged with offences, including a breach of the peace with homophobic aggravation. It appears that this relates to a placard one of them was carrying saying “These faggots fight fascists”. We have raised concerns about this with Police Scotland. It is vital to understand that some LGBTI people reclaim words like “queer”, “dyke”, “poof” and “faggot” to use about ourselves, and when we do that, it is not a hate crime. When a person reclaims a word in this way, there is no malice and ill-will towards LGB people involved, and malice and ill-will is a core requirement for a homophobic hate crime in Scotland. We have also raised concerns about the stop and search of an LGBTI asylum seeker at the march in a further separate incident.

We will continue to pursue these concerns with the police. There are many ways to take action to improve trans equality and we respect each trans person’s right to decide their methods and priorities for themselves. Equality Network / Scottish Trans Alliance uses a mixture of policy engagement work, research, staff training, formal complaints, advocacy, empowerment of trans people to understand their legal rights, and strategic litigation to try to hold to account and improve all Scottish public bodies, including Police Scotland. The existence of equality laws and LGBTI staff groups do not on their own eliminate transphobia and other discriminatory behaviour. Huge amounts of work remains to be done in many different ways by many different activists.

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