A DUP official has reported a participant at Belfast Pride for brandishing a sign that said ‘F**k the DUP’.
PinkNews reported that Belfast’s Pride event on Saturday had confiscated a sign bearing the slogan attacking the Democratic Unionist Party, which has employed a veto to override democratic votes in favour of equal marriage in Northern Ireland.
Belfast Pride Festival confirmed that the sign was confiscated over fears “it breached the Parades Commission’s guidelines”. All parades are strictly regulated in Northern Ireland due to sectarian tensions in the region.
Jim Wells, a DUP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly who is strongly opposed to LGBT rights, today said he had submitted a police complaint over the sign, citing the report on PinkNews.
He informed local media: “Today at Newry Police Station I made a statement [about] the ‘ F**K the DUP’ placard at the Gay Pride parade.
“I asked the Police to charge [the Pride marcher] with a hate crime and grossly offensive behaviour. Her actions were also in contravention of Parades Commission regulations.
“[The Pride marcher] told ‘PinkNews’ that she did display the placard but organisers had ‘ripped’ it from her. The photos of the parade do not confirm this.”
Mr Wells added: “I told the police that I regarded the placard as a hate crime and grossly offensive.
“It was also in my view totally against the legislation controlling parades in Northern Ireland.”
A spokesperson for PSNI confirmed to PinkNews: “Police have received a complaint in relation to a placard displayed during the Belfast Pride event on Saturday 5th August 2017.”
Detective Inspector Lisa McCambridge told PinkNews: “We will examine the complaint to establish if any offence has been committed.”
Belfast Pride chair Seán Ó Néill told PinkNews “Belfast Pride believes that Mr Wells has the same right as anyone else to take legal action on this or any other issue and his complaint is now a matter for the PSNI to deal with.
“We note the conversation on Equality that seems to be taking place in the DUP at the minute in the wake of the biggest Belfast Pride festival in history.”
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He added: “Belfast Pride is subject to regulation from the Parades Commission for Northern Ireland. There has not been a change in our position and we still want full Equality – the theme for Belfast Pride 2017 was ‘Demand Change’ and that is still our position.
“We have more legal restrictions on our parade than any other Pride in Western Europe and yet LGBT people here currently have fewer rights than in any other jurisdiction in Western Europe so we have to work within this legal context while trying to make our point.
“The same applies to the other upcoming Pride festivals here – Foyle Pride and Pride in Newry.”.
A spokesperson for the Parades Commission told PinkNews: “The Commission’s statutory Code of Conduct applies to all parades in Northern Ireland. Its aim is to ensure that parades are lawful and peaceful, ‘while at the same time minimising disruption, annoyance or offence to those who work or live on or near the routes along which they pass’.
“As a general principle, the parade organiser is responsible for the behaviour of all participants and for ensuring compliance with the Code of Conduct.
“The Code includes guidance that all participants of a parade should ‘behave with due regard for the rights, traditions and feelings of others in the vicinity.”
The Parade Commission’s code of conduct states that participants in any parade held in Northern Ireland must “behave with due regard for the rights, traditions and feelings of others in the vicinity” and “refrain from using words or behaviour which could reasonably be perceived as being intentionally sectarian, provocative”.
The code also states that stewards of any parades must “be properly trained” which stipulates being “fully aware of their responsibilities and role”.
Mr Wells is a long-time opponent of LGBT rights. He has previously described Pride marches as “repugnant”.