Five people involved in protests at this weekend’s Pride Glasgow event have been arrested, sparking significant controversy online.
According to an official statement by Police Scotland, two male protesters aged between 16 and 24 were arrested and detained in custody over the weekend. The 24 year old, Panagiotis Theodoropoulos, was allegedly charged with threatening behaviours and resisting arrest, and pled “not guilty” in Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday 21 August. He is due to stand trial 1 September. It is unknown what the outcome was for the 16 year old who was also arrested. They appear to have been part of the International Workers of the World’s (IWW) “Red & Black Bloc”, and allegedly became involved in a disagreement with police as to the wording of their placard, which is said to have read “These Faggots Fight Fascists”.
The news of their arrest has caused controversy on social media, with many objecting to the “homophobic aggravation” charge when at least one of the protestors themselves are alleged to be members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Three other LGBTQIA+ activists – a 19-year-old man and two women aged 23 and 28 – were also arrested for alleged breach of the peace, according to Police Scotland they were later “liberated”. They appear to have been involved in a protest against the controversial police-led march in this year’s event. A Thousand Flowers, an LGBTQ blog, has alleged that several protestors in this group were victims of police brutality, with a Pride Glasgow steward attempting to rip one of their banners, and one of those arrested having “blue hands” as a result of the way he was restrained.
It is also alleged that Ebrima Kalleh, the convenor of the organisation LGBT Unity, was stopped and searched by police for “wearing a cagoule on his head”, despite the fact that such cagoules were being handed out nearby and many others were wearing similar ones. Police Scotland has made no statements relating to this allegation.
Pride Glasgow’s organisers criticised those protesting against police involvement in a post on the event’s official Facebook page, saying that: “Pride Glasgow is extremely disappointed in the actions of a small group of people that tried to target the Pride Glasgow Parade yesterday. Whilst Pride Glasgow promotes an Equality for all agenda and free speech the actions of this group jeopardised the safety of everyone attending the parade.
“The Pride Parade in Glasgow has always been a platform for protest alongside a celebration of LGBTI life and we are saddened that this shameful attempt to sabotage the parade has come from within the LGBTI community. This shameful attempt to sabotage the parade has come from within the LGBT community.
“Pride Glasgow fully encourage the participation of uniformed services in the Parade including the Police and whilst we understand that others may have a different view on this. Actions which endanger others will not be permitted.
“Pride Glasgow support the actions of Police Scotland in dealing with this group to ensure the safety of everyone on the Parade and the Festival. Pride Glasgow has worked closely with the police and relevant agencies to put appropriate measures in place to deal with incidents at all levels especially given the current threat level.
“This year’s Parade was one of the biggest ever to happen in Glasgow and with over 90 floats and walking groups alongside over 6000 individuals the majority of which followed the correct guidelines set out by Glasgow City Council for Parades but we were disappointed that Sheboom a group who have taken part historically in the parade felt the need to break this by splitting the parade and continuing to play music outside the Cathedral which is a requirement from Glasgow City Council for all Parades to cease music during the passing of any place of worship.”
Many of those who have commented on this post have been unhappy with this statement, with one person, Holly Cunningham, saying that “Pride is fundamentally a protest” and that “to say that [the protestors] put the march or the wellbeing of other people in danger is nonsense.”
This sentiment has been echoed by the organisation Free Pride, who were involved in protests against the police-led march: “Free Pride’s action at this year’s Pride parade was primarily in response to the decision to have the police lead the march. We wish to draw attention to the harmfulness of this decision which shows a disregard for migrant lives and LGBT people of colour.
“Pride has its origins in protest against police brutality and anti-LGBT violence, particularly against people of colour and trans folk, and we believe it should remain a protest. In addition to this, the police service is a racist institution which serves to enact violence against LGBT+ people of colour and we condemn the decision to prioritise these institutions over the LGBT+ community. Corporate and police inclusion and centring within pride betrays its roots in protest and serves to uphold state violence against marginalised groups – we reject this pinkwashing and rewriting of history.
“Free Pride prioritises community over corporations and see no reason to accept these revisions of history. We believe it is time to reclaim pride.”
SheBoom, an all-female drumming band specifically singled out in Pride Glasgow’s statement, have also responded: “We are shocked, appalled, saddened and devastated by the events of this Saturday and the response of Pride Glasgow.”
SheBoom rejected the accusations that they had deliberately split the march: “the front section took off at an unsustainable pace and abandoned us. In order to maintain the safety of all those marching behind us, we drew on our wealth of experience and guided the rest of the parade through the melee of traffic in the city centre at a safe, sensible and inclusive pace, largely unstewarded, back to Glasgow Green.”
They also claim that the accusation that they were not silent for the required amount of time while passing places of worship was false.
SheBoom received the apology they sought in a fresh statement from Pride Glasgow, posted a day later: “Pride Glasgow have since apologised for the above statement and it has been deleted from the official Facebook page. A new statement was posted on 25 August: “Pride Glasgow would like to apologise unreservedly for our initial response posted on social media on Saturday evening. It was an emotional response made in the heat of the moment after many long days of work to prepare for the festival. It does not reflect our position and has been deleted.”
[…]”We apologise to SheBoom for singling them out for criticism, we… now recognise that the pace they set was from a genuine interest to set a pace better suited to march participants and not out of malice. We would very much like to invite SheBoom to meet us for a discussion on how best we can work together.
“We will work with the police and our stewards to ensure the correct resources are available to ensure this does not happen in future and that the roads remain safe for all march participants.”