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Trans charities condemn Manchester Pride and police after anti-trans protestors hijacked march

Ella Braidwood August 27, 2019

Trans campaigners marching at Manchester Pride on Saturday. (Tina Williams)

Trans rights charities have condemned Manchester Pride and Greater Manchester Police over their response to a group of anti-trans protestors, which were able to “lead” the front of the parade after hijacking the march.

An open letter sent to PinkNews by national trans charity Sparkle adds to the growing backlash over the incident, during which a contingent gatecrashed the front of the march on Saturday, August 24, carrying banners reading “lesbians don’t have penises” and “gender ideology harms lesbians”.

Eye-witnesses told PinkNews that there were between 10 and 14 protestors.

The protest was organised by anti-trans body GetTheLOut, the same group that hijacked the front of Pride in London’s parade in 2018.

Tara Hewitt, a trans woman and co-founder of Trans Equality Legal Initiative, watched the parade with her partner – also a trans woman – and told PinkNews that the incident left them “worried about our own safety.”

Now, in an open letter, top figures at national transgender charity Sparkle and trans youth charity Mermaids UK have criticised Manchester Pride organisers and Greater Manchester Police for not stopping the protestors in their tracks.

I am utterly devastated that this group was not challenged and excused by Manchester Pride and Greater Manchester Police.

In the letter released by Sparkle, the charity said that the incident left an “already marginalised community” feeling “even more abandoned by those who should be advocating for their acceptance and inclusion”.

The letter read: “There has been no statement from Manchester Pride or Greater Manchester Police.

“There have been no explanations or apologies, especially for the complete disregard of duty of care for the young trans people walking just thirteen places behind; other trans, non-binary/genderfluid and intersex people taking part in the parade; and those watching who are currently questioning their own gender, or on their own journey to becoming their true selves.”

Both charities had participated in the march on Saturday, but were only made aware of the protest once the march had finished.

They marched alongside another group, L-With-The-T, which was formed by trans-inclusive lesbians and queer women to kickback against the actions of GetTheLOut.

Mermaids UK and Sparkle criticise Manchester Pride organisers over response to anti-trans protest.

Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids UK, said: “We were delighted to be asked to be a part of this year’s march, alongside Sparkle and L-with-the-T. Our families, children and young people gathered to take part, and the march was amazing, emotional and empowering.

“It was with great sadness that we then discovered that, only 13 spaces in front of us, the same circumstances that happened in London in 2018 were played out in Manchester on Saturday.

“We are so disappointed that this was allowed to happen and dismayed that it was so close to our vulnerable service users and their families. To learn that they were escorted and allowed to hand out offensive materials that discriminate against trans people is incredibly disheartening.”

The protestors also handed out leaflets claiming that “trans-activism erases lesbians” and citing support from other anti-trans campaigns, including ReSistersUnited, whose regional group Lancashire ReSisters participated in the demonstration.

Mark Fletcher, chief executive for Manchester Pride, said in a statement to PinkNews: “I am incredibly proud of my team – we delivered a safe event enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people celebrating LGBT+ life and continuing our fight for true equality in Manchester city centre this weekend.

“As 2019 was a new era format for the festival, we anticipated that there would be some learning to make in this first year. We are investigating all concerns and complaints that have been raised.

“As we do each year, we will take the feedback received from our audiences and use it to develop and improve on our events each year.

“We consider this to be incredibly important and we massively value all the feedback that we received. Right now, it is important for my team and I to take a proper period of time to collate, reflect on and evaluate all feedback in order that we can response appropriately.

“I would like to personally apologise to anyone who did not have an enjoyable experience at our events this year. I need to gather all the facts in order to evaluate each individual issue in its own right.”

GetTheLOut leading the front of Manchester Pride’s parade. (GetTheLOut)

Jay Crawford, chair of Sparkle’s board of trustees said: “Our group marched their hearts out, we embraced all ages, gender identities and sexualities within our parade entry.

“After reaching the end, I could see those same people disheartened and their experience tainted by the seemingly condoned anti-trans demonstration at the front.

“I think it is fair to say that, even in 2019, we have a long way to go for true inclusion of those who are trans, non-binary and gender variant.

“I am utterly devastated that this group was not challenged and excused by Manchester Pride and Greater Manchester Police. If we exclude Christian protestors, then we must also exclude other anti-LGBTQIA factions too.”

Greater Manchester Police told PinkNews that no criminal offences were committed so no arrests were made.

A spokesperson added: “We respect any individual’s right to freedom of expression and their right to protest peacefully; and with that comes a degree of responsibility.

“During events of this nature the police, as well as the event organisers, will seek to engage with people protesting, in an effort to facilitate this in a peaceful manner. Where someone is found to be committing a criminal offence during a public demonstration they risk being prosecuted.”

An organiser from GetTheLOut, who did not want to be named, told PinkNews that the group “marched together in the face of the constant hostility, violent anti-lesbianism and rape threat of the GBT movement, to raise awareness about the transitioning, the raping, the appropriation and the erasure of lesbians”.

Sparkle also said it would “welcome an opportunity to meet with Mark Fletcher, CEO of Manchester Pride, representatives of Greater Manchester Police, and the parade organisers, to discuss these issues further”.

The open letter added: “Until this infringement is investigated fully, and a cogent plan put in place to protect every group participating in the annual Manchester Pride parade, the gender diverse community will not feel safe or valued by The Big Weekend and its organisers.

“This year, Pride in London took huge steps to protect our families and young people from a repeat of last year, successfully and with heart. Understandably, we are left wondering why Manchester Pride didn’t offer our children and young people the same level of care and support Pride in London did?”

More: Manchester Pride, mermaids, sparkle

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