Independent Pride Derry reflect on ‘soul breaking’ protesters at Pride

Independent Pride Derry have expressed their ‘deep concern’ at anti-LGBTQIA+ protesters who were present at Foyle Pride on Saturday, August 27.

A group of LGBTQIA+ protesters blocking the counter-protest by the Christian group. Picture by Brendan Harkin
A group of LGBTQIA+ protesters blocking the counter-protest by the Christian group. Picture by Brendan Harkin

The protesters, a Christian group from Belfast, were granted permission from the Parades Commission to attend, as they had done for the previous two weeks before Pride. The Parades Commission and the PSNI have said that they make decisions based on everyone’s rights to protest.

A spokesperson for Independent Pride Derry said: “Pride is where we meet to celebrate our beautiful diversity and individuality. Pride must also be a place of safety and respect. For some, this year will have been their first Pride parade. We are dismayed that a group of fundamentalist preachers were permitted space at our Guildhall. We cannot repeat what they shouted at Pride attendees as their language was so grotesquely offensive.

“The fundamentalist group lodged an application with the Parades Commission to protest, as is their right, at Pride. Nobody raised an objection. This was an opportunity missed to keep our community safe. The group had microphones and speakers and drowned out the Pride performers on stage. We will not tolerate a repeat of this abuse.

Picture by Brendan Harkin

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“We repeat one of the chants our young queers shouted on Saturday; ‘We’re here. We’re queer. We have no fear’.”

A spokesperson for the Parades Commission said: “In fulfilling its statutory duties to consider notifications for both parades and related protests, the Commission will seek to arrive at fair and proportionate decisions which balance the rights of everyone involved – those parading, those protesting as well as those who live, shop and work in the affected locality.

“Those participating in parades and parade-related protests are expected to adhere to the Commission’s Code of Conduct which addresses issues such as behaviour and stewarding.

“The Commission will review the post-protest report from the PSNI and retain this on file. Previous proven behaviour will be taken into account in reaching future decisions.”

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Dáire Nic Lochlainn said: “Coming home from Pride celebrations in Derry on Saturday, I had mixed feelings. To come home to a rural and religious village after words of hatred condemned my existence over loudspeaker was difficult. It’s one thing to hear it and shout back in a group of like-minded people but to reflect on the words at home where no one understands that struggle and when loved ones don’t fully condemn their actions, is overwhelmingly soul breaking. There will always be opposition when you are taking part in activism and I knew that all too well but to hear it on a day where I believed I could relax, be proud of and enjoy the work that has been done with my community, is something else. That night I did cry. I was disheartened, because what was triggered in me was the thought of, ‘what am I even fighting for if this is still being allowed to happen?’ No one should be made feel this way; no one should be burnt out just for existing.”

Andrew Clarke said: “Why are preachers treated as an inevitability at Pride? When we see time and time again that hatred is not finite and that it is reproduced through generations, why is the onus of combating it left to the individual at their own risk? Is Pride a Protest, or is it just a Party?

Chief Inspector of the PSNI, Yvonne McManus, said: “Along with ensuring the rights of individuals to assemble and march there is, of course, an equivalent right to protest.

“The Police Service works with all communities to balance these respective rights. Interference with the rights of individuals by police should be no more than is necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances.

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“Prior to the Foyle Pride parade, we met with and engaged with the event organisers and the Parades Commission to ensure everyone’s rights were upheld.

“We are happy to meet with any group, or representative, to discuss issues surrounding this parade, or any other policing matter, causing concern within the local community.”