New Zealand pride parade in turmoil after ban on uniformed police

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opens the 2018 Auckland Pride Parade. Source: Getty

Uniformed police will not be allowed to march in the 2019 Auckland Pride Parade.

New Zealand's largest pride parade has descended into chaos after organisers banned uniformed police from taking part in the event.

The board of Auckland Pride released a statement on Tuesday confirming police in uniform would not be allowed to participate in its annual parade, a "difficult and complex" decision made after "extensive community consultation".

"We heard clearly during this consultation that for groups within our community the police uniform does not make them feel safe. We also heard numerous stories of transphobia, racism, misogyny and homophobia directed at members," the statement said.

It said "marginalised voices ... have distanced themselves from Pride due to Police involvement".

Police could still take part in the February event "but not in uniform".

Pride board chair Cissy Rock said "police were not able to compromise with the Pride board despite months of consultation with the community that highlighted more work needed to be done in order for participants to feel safe".

However, the backlash has been swift, with the police, defence force and several major organisations and sponsors pulling out.

Police, who have taken part in previous marches, called the decision disappointing and a move backwards.

Vodafone Rainbow Whanau criticised the board for not being inclusive.

"It's simply the right thing to do to stand with the police in this instance, as we would with any excluded group, and insist on inclusion for all," it said in a statement.

A rainbow police car joins the Auckland Pride Parade earlier this year.
A rainbow police car joins the Auckland Pride Parade earlier this year.

While Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust is pulling its funding "with great regret".

"The trustees consider Pride's decision to refuse the NZ Police the right to march in uniform to be contrary to the trust's key purpose which is to maintain a fund available to build strength through diversity within the LGBTQI+ community in New Zealand," Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust chairman Gresham Bradley said in statement.

Georgina Beyer, an activist who was the world's first openly transgender member of parliament, called the decision "retrograde"' and said LGBTQI+ officers had fought hard for the right to wear their uniforms.

"It seems ironic to me that out, gay, uniformed police are now told to possibly arrive in mufti. In other words: 'pop back in the closet'," she told Radio NZ.

"A lot of work has gone in over the years to build good faith between organisations such as the police and defence force regarding rainbow issues."

The 2018 event.
The 2018 event.

Activist group People Against Prisons Aotearoa is among those backing the ban.

"When you stop beating and tasering and pepper spraying and shooting Maori, then you can use gay people as a PR stunt," spokesperson Emilie Rakete told RNZ.

Additional reporting: AAP

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