An open letter in response to the Conservatives’ boycott of York Pride

People gathered at the start of York Pride 2017. Photograph: YorkMix
7 Jun 2018 @ 10.25 am
| News, Opinion

Five of the group who protested near the Conservatives’ stall at York Pride 2017 reply to the earlier article

I am writing this to discuss the unfair comments and accusations made in the article Why we won’t be at York Pride 2018.

The authors refer to the peaceful protest of a small handful of individuals in front of the Conservatives’ stall at last year’s York Pride. We were those protesters, and we would like the chance to air what we did.

The article accuses us of making them feel too unsafe to attend this year’s Pride and boycott the event as a result. One of our number started the protest standing with their back to the stall, with a sign “We will not be CONned or DUPed” and “Get DUPed= Foster hate”.

They did not talk to anyone at the stall, and did not abuse anyone, instead simply quietly watching people go by.

Bit by bit, more like-minded people joined the first. Many of us met for the first time that day, one of us was crocheting love hearts and giving them out for free.

Jovial and friendly

The atmosphere was jovial and friendly. The article embedded a Tweet from the day with our images, thus putting our faces to the claims made by the people running the Conservative tent.

They wrote that we were an organised nasty group, and this is very much not the case. We, as a group, engaged in peaceful protest, we did not shout slogans, we did not approach the people within the tent, and we certainly did not harass or threaten those within the tent.

Instead, we stood quietly with our signs, and talked politely to anyone who approached us. We, as a group, did not take it upon ourselves to enter the tent, or attack those within.

We learned later that the Conservatives had packed up early, and left before the end of Pride. If that was caused by abusive language or behaviour of others, it was nothing to do with the group of us who were protesting through the day.

The York Conservatives stall at York Pride in 2017. Photograph: Paul Doughty on Twitter

We express disgust and upset that some members of the public at Pride last year took it upon themselves to attack those people who were running the Conservative tent, and did not in any way encourage such behaviour.

Several times through the day, we asked people we noticed being aggressive or loud to back off, and to leave, as we did not want to be associated with that kind of behaviour. We were aware of our responsibilities as peaceful protesters.

We were in regular contact with the police who were present through the day; some of them were even given a crocheted heart. We simply exercised our right to free protest, at a pride event, and pride is first and foremost a protest against the subjugation and denigration of LGBTQPIA+ folk and a declaration of our existence and rights.

Disgust at the attacks

The article states:

Just like the ongoing anti-semitism from a minority of far left activists which has been shown to the world in recent months, the people on our stall last year – including members of the LGBT community itself – were subjected to such a level of intimidation, nastiness and venom that they now feel it would not be safe for them to return.

We would like to express again our disgust that such attacks were made, and assure everyone that none of us were involved in the intimidation of anyone, and we are not responsible for the actions of other individuals who might have taken action.

Pride 2018

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Likening a peaceful protest to anti-semitism is outrageous, ludicrous and completely nonsensical. One of our group is a German national, who thus takes this accusation particularly seriously.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, it was an ad hoc, peaceful protest of random, like-minded strangers.

The article claims: “the level of co-ordinated attacks last year – with encouragement at times from those who we expected to behave better – went far beyond what anybody would expect within the inclusive and celebratory environment of Pride,” which make us sound like a bunch of hooligans.

We repeat, not a single person from the people who gathered to protest were physically or verbally abusing or assaulting anyone. The use of images of us in this article can lead to the misunderstanding that we were in some way involved in that aggression. We would like to see our images removed, and a correction published.


The Peaceful Protesters

Sophie Hentschel, Mal Thompson, Tom Rudd, Jack Woodruff, John Thompson