At Pride Sheffield 2016, members of the Potter’s House Church evangelical cult arrived preaching homo- and transphobic hate only to be driven off-site by a united LGBTQ community – despite threats of arrest from police officers protecting the cult members. This year the cult returned in smaller numbers but were defended by more police who this time went as far as assaulting an Action for Trans Health member who was being harassed by a cult member.
A dyke couple were walking across the field towards T’Other Stage at Pride Sheffield 2017 when they were disturbed by a man from Potters House Church standing on the field by the entrance, speaking through an amplifier, telling people at Pride that they were sinners and needed to change their ways. Three police officers were positioned around the cult member with their backs towards him in a protective formation.
A group of seven non-binary trans people and lesbians walked over together and the cult member directed his words towards them, saying he was praying especially hard for “this particular group of people” to change their ways. He went on to say that LGBTQ people were “the way you are” because of abusive upbringings and that LGBTQ ways of life were abusive themselves. More LGBTQ people joined the crowd, cheering as a lesbian couple kissed next to the homophobe. The cult member outstretched his hand towards the couple, praying for them to convert to a heterosexual Christian lifestyle, at which point one of the dykes turned around and unplugged his microphone.
A large police officer, badge number 401, immediately rushed over and grabbed the non-binary dyke by both wrists, squeezing hard and causing one of their fingers to bleed. Five more officers crowded around while the officer gripped onto the dyke’s wrists until they managed to break free and began filming on their phone. None of the officers showed the same aggression towards the cult member who had been projecting his homophobic, transphobic harassment over a loudspeaker. Several of them repeated that “he has the right to express his views” but LGBTQ people protesting would be arrested for breach of the peace if they did not move on.
A woman got out her phone, announcing, “telling us to move on is not solving the problem, it’s pretending the problem hasn’t existed. I’m currently recording this as a hate crime.” A man called Darren identified himself as the event manager and tried to discourage her from doing so, along with a blonde haired police officer, whose badge number was not visible, who replied, “you don’t have to, you don’t have to listen to it.”
Darren spoke to the crowd of gathered LGBTQ people, encouraging them to “go into the event and enjoy the day. Ignore this man. Ignore him. We had 20 people turn up last year” – referring to when Potter’s House Church turned up at Pride Sheffield 2016 but were forced off-site by the LGBTQ community working together in solidarity. When the crowd responded that “one is too many” and “I don’t wanna be told I gotta change by any one person”, Darren replied, “we will always have hatred”, becoming frustrated, finishing, “if you want to possibly be arrested and ruin our day, go ahead” and walking away. A group of LGBTQ young people rushed up, checked if people were ok and congratulated the non-binary dyke for unplugging the hate preacher’s microphone, showing far more care for their community than Pride organisers or the smug bystander pontificating about free speech had.
That the police are not here to protect the LGBTQ community should go without saying by now but their escalating tactics show cause for concern. The LGBTQ community showed our ability to defend ourselves against homophobes and transphobes last year, despite police attempts to facilitate uninterrupted hate speech. Although they were disinvited by Pride organisers because of their homophobic and transphobic behaviour, this year police multiplied their numbers, displayed their eagerness to physically harm LGBTQ people and even brought two armed officers. The claim was that these two officers were there in case of terror attacks but the only violence towards people at Pride was coming from police. The two armed officers were preoccupied with showing off their cars to small children; the only purpose of them being there was to normalise the militarisation of the police. Their presence made some LGBTQ people feel so unsafe they left the event which was supposed to be for them.
Police don’t make people safe from transphobia and homophobia, it’s up to us to look out for each other. The police have a monopoly on violence which they use with most force against those in our community who are poor, black, disabled and people of colour. LGBTQ people who defend ourselves from oppression are faced with further violence and incarceration.
No pride in police, no police in pride!