Police were called to the launch of Londonderry’s Pride week last night after a protest by an anti-gay group.

A group of around 30 Christian protestors gathered outside the City Hotel. Two gay rights activists attempted to block out the protestors’ banners with placards of their own, before being moved on by the police.

One of the women moved on by police told BBC News:

“[The protestors] are allowed to come out and say whatever they want to say and we can’t stand in front of them with a banner?

“We’re being harassed. The police are actually asking us to move out of the way but these people are still allowed to stand here with their terrible banners.

“Where’s the justice?”

Reverend Ian Brown was part of the protest. He said:

“It was not violence and we would oppose all violence against any persons.”

“Often the homosexual movement will fly the flag of ‘you lot are intolerant and you hide behind the Bible’ … could there be anything more intolerant than the clear victimisation of Iris Robinson tonight through these posters?”

In a statement issued today by the Foyle Pride 2008 organisation team, the secretary James Smallman said:

“Pride aims to improve the health and well being of our community, because we understand the harm that hate does, whereas those zealots who appear annually outside continue to spout their vile invective and feed the pyres of evangelical fury.

“They then have a cheek to say they act out of love, a word that drips bitterly from their lips.

“They know full well the damage they do yet they persist.

“To knowingly do harm to a minority is cruel and immoral.

“Hatred is not a family value. Our thoughts are very much with those who are gay and living within such environments.

“A loving family is hard to beat, a bitter one is hard to recover from.

Mr Smallman attacked Reverend Brown, saying:

“[Revered Brown] once said as part of an attack on the gay community during pride ‘AIDS to every candid mind can be viewed as nothing other than a vehicle of divine retribution.’

“Over 40 million affected, entire communities and families destroyed, children orphaned, Africa devastated. How immoral is such a statement?

“How cruel can you get? Such a statement makes a mockery of Christian values and presents an image of a monstrous deity.

“Such statements do no one any good, not even his own cause. We will take no lectures from him on morality.

“This festival is about inclusion, it is about promoting understanding for all our citizens.

Apart from the protest, Mr Smallman emphasised the success of the pride event so far.

“The Foyle Pride committee are delighted with the turn out for the launch of the 2008 festival,” he said.

“The days when young LGBT people were forced to move to English cities and beyond in order to find acceptance are fading into the past.

“Families no longer have to suffer the sense of loss that results from the emigration of a loved one.

“Instead people are choosing to stay in their native country, getting an education and a good start in life in an environment where they can readily access the support of their peers and family circle.

“This is vital in addressing the issues that arise from homophobia, issues such as self harm, suicide, depression and addiction.”