Tag Archives: Peter Tatchell

Gay Pride Encourages Apathy!

We’re apathetic, and it’s both costing and shaming us. Remember Michael Causer’s brutal murder? The nigh-dismissive court case in its wake? Remember how Jacqui Smith tried every trick in the book to send Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran and a probable death? Seen the stats on homophobic bullying in schools? Noticed the ultra homophobes the Tories are palling with in Strasbourg? That the BNP have two EU Parliament seats? Well after a history of political campaigning, this year’s London LGBT Pride was about partying. It hasn’t gone down well in some quarters:

Peter Tatchell, of the lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights group, OutRage, and a patron of Pride London, condemned this year’s slogan “Come and Play” as “totally anodyne” and accused the LGBT community of “huge apathy and complacency”.

He said: “I’m shocked that Pride London has hardly mentioned the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots on its website or in its magazine. Most of the content is about entertainment and partying. To ignore and downplay this important anniversary is an insult to the veterans who began our momentous fight for freedom.”

What it is is naive and counter-productive – encouraging non-engagement in the wider community and political ignorance. We have Churchmen who want to brainwash us, politicians who call us an ‘abomination’, yet on the one occasion we have to come together our only object is to party?

Things may be better, equality laws are all over the statute books and gay people are in government. But kids are still being bullied and killed for who they are. It’s disrespectful to them, as to those who got us here to be concentrating on ‘playing’. As Tatchell himself has pointed out recently, because of our unique process of ‘coming out’ we are able to offer an unmatched social/political analysis of the world around us – why dumb that down? The Proposition 8 calamity in California has shown an entire generation in the States that our current rights and acceptance could disappear in a stroke -we in the UK should take it as the warning that it is, and move on from our complacency.

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Voting Green – The Reasons Why

Peter Tatchell gives an excellent analysis as to why to vote Green in today’s elections is your one shot at voting for progressive politics:

The Green party embraces the social justice agenda that Labour has long abandoned. We are more than a party of environmental protection. We are also a party of fairness and equality, with progressive policies on jobs, housing, education, health and pensions. Unlike the Liberal Democrats, we don’t support free market capitalism or use dirty tricks during election campaigns and we don’t talk green in national politics only to do something else entirely at the local level.

Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Labour lost its heart and soul. It has become the party of war, privatisation and attacks on civil liberties. The Labour government promoted the financial deregulation that led to the banking crisis, resulting in bankruptcies and mass unemployment. It refuses to take legal action against the corporate criminals who have pushed Britain to the precipice of a full-blown economic depression.

Labour’s policy rot was not caused by Brown alone. The whole Labour government – including Alan Johnson – backed the party’s rightward drift.

A rejection of neoliberalism. Championing fair, anti-war, environmentally friendly policies which don’t attack civil liberties and human rights. It’s about social justice, no longer marketising areas of society which shouldn’t be marketised (let alone privatised) and walking away from a nuclear deterrant which even Obama himself has said he wants to see done away with. That alone would save hundreds of millions of pounds at a time when we can do with all we can get! Want what you originally hoped for with Blair? Vote Green (if you haven’t already)!

Homosexuality is Legal in Russia

…you’d never know from today’s events though:

Between 20 and 40 activists have been arrested at Slavic Pride in Moscow by anti-riot police, early reports indicate.

According to a statement released by Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev, violence was used to break up the peaceful march, which had been banned by Moscow authorities.

It was held to coincide with the Eurovision final which will be hosted by the city tonight. Attempts to hold a Pride march in previous years have been met with violence.

Among those arrested were British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, and Chicago campaigner Andy Thayer.

(source)

Jacqui Smith is a Foul Hypocrite!

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has banned Islamophobic Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the UK:

Geert Wilders was due to show his 17-minute film Fitna, which criticises the Koran as a “fascist book”, at the House of Lords tomorrow.

But he said he received a letter from the Home Office refusing him entry to Britain because his opinions “threaten community security and therefore public security” in the UK.

Mr Wilders, a member of Holland’s Freedom Party, told the BBC he still planned to fly into Heathrow Airport early tomorrow afternoon, adding: “Let’s see what will happen.”

The government’s justified its banning order, saying:

“It will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country and that was the driving force behind tighter rules on exclusions for unacceptable behaviour that the Home Secretary announced in October last year.”

Hang on. Wilders threatens public security therefore he can’t enter the UK? Peter Tatchell points out the Home Secretary’s disgusting hypocrisy:

“She gives visas to demagogues who incite violence and murder, while banning from the UK a Dutch MP who has never incited violence against anyone.

“I do not agree with Mr Wilders, but he has never threatened violence against Muslims.

The Home Secretary regularly grants visas and work permits to Jamaican reggae singers who openly incite the murder of lesbian and gay people. Incitement to murder is a very serious criminal offence.

“The Home Office and Metropolitan Police also allow radio stations and record stores to promote their murder-inciting CDs.

“Last November, Jacqui Smith gave Jamaican reggae singer Bounty Killer (Rodney Price) permission to perform at a concert in east London. He had been banned from Guyana earlier in 2008 over his murderous lyrics, but the British government said he was welcome to sing in the UK.

“It is double standards to ban Geert Wilders and not Bounty Killer.

“Bounty Killer encourages and glorifies gang violence. At a time when so many young people have been murdered in gang-related gun and knife crime, it is reckless and obscene for the Home Secretary to give Bounty Killer a visa and work permit.”

Jacqui Smith is making it abundantly clear that she considers lesbian and gay lives to be of less value than (in this instance) Muslim lives. There’s quite simply no other reasonable interpretation of the double standard. I think Wilders’ racism is deplorable, but don’t agree for a second that he shouldn’t be allowed into the UK (particularly because he’s an elected representative in fellow EU member state). Unlike Bounty Killer he indeed doesn’t incite violence against Muslims, yet the Home Office considers him more of a threat to ‘community security’? It’s a cynical move, which is only likely to justify extremism rather than hinder it. Daniel Hannan is quite right when he says:

No good will come of this revolting cowardice. We have damaged relations with a friendly country; we have given the idiotic Wilders a dignity he doesn’t deserve; and we have once again cast British Muslims, quite unfairly, in the role of potential murderers.

Met Police Indifferent to Gay Hate Music

The Metropolitan Police have gone back on a deal they were party to, in confronting gay hate reggae music. Where previously they had insisted that (as negotiated successfully with the Bradford, the Birmingham, and the Manchester police) artists such as Bounty Killer, who promote anti-gay violence in their music, would have to sign the Reggae Compassionate Act as a precondition for performing in London, they now appear to have changed their minds:

London’s police service has been criticised by gay rights activists for allowing a concert by a notoriously homophobic singer to go ahead in the city this weekend.

“We are aware of a planned concert by the artist Bounty Killer at Stratford Rex on Sunday November 23rd.

“Conferences have been held between the police, the venue’s management and the artist’s manager in order to consider the most productive way to handle the matter.

“A previous concert at the venue with the artist passed off without incident. The club have given us full access and we will deal robustly with any offences that arise.”

It is understood that Bounty Killer has given an undertaking not to perform any of his homophobic songs.

All well and good right? That’s what they want you to think. Bounty Killer (real name Rodney Price) has ‘given an undertaking’. But Peter Tatchell reminds us that there’s a double standard, and it’s in Price’s favour:

“It (the Met) allows homophobic singers to perform in London, but not racist ones.

“Racist artists are banned on the grounds that they are a threat to public order and good community relations. This is a case of double standards.

“The Met Police have previously said that murder music singers will not be allowed to perform unless they sign the RCA (Reggae Compassionate Act).

“Officers have broken their promise. They are taking the side of a singer who has promoted and celebrated the murder of gay people, and who is defying the RCA.

“A white racist singer who advocated killing black people would not be allowed to perform in London, even if he agreed to not incite the killing of black people at his concert. They have adopted this zero tolerance policy towards white racist bands like Skrewdriver.

“Yet when it comes to straight homophobic singers who urge the murder of gay people, the police take a softer stance. They have agreed to let the concert go ahead, despite their professed commitment to oppose homophobic hate crimes. It’s bare-faced hypocrisy.”

It’s a poignant reminder of how easy institutional prejudices are to commit, and how difficult it can be for those responsible to come to terms with. The Met is riddled with racism and homophobia, whatever else they would like you to believe about their effectiveness in tackling hate crimes. For them to ban white racist singers before they even sing a note because of the potential for public order offences and then not offer the same protection to potential future victims of people like Bounty Killer is homophobic; whether or not they understand that the outcome is the same. It’s hardly surprising though when they get their lead from a Home Secretary like Jacqui Smith, who believes gay asylum seekers are perfectly safe to send back to countries like Iran as long as they are ‘discreet’, and whose priorities are all wrong. Tatchell points out:

“This singer encourages and glorifies gang violence. At a time when so many young people have been murdered in gang-related gun and knife crime, it is reckless and obscene for the Home Secretary to give Bounty Killer a visa and work permit. Rewarding maladjusted thugs who incite violence sends the wrong signal.”

Lindsay Johns adds:

There is no more ardent devotee of ragga music and especially Bounty Killer than me. With his snappy “Lord have mercy” catchphrase, his distinctive gravel-edged voice and his lyrical dexterity, the self-proclaimed “Poor People’s Governor” was the soundtrack to my youth.

But as a humanist, I have no truck with hate music: the homophobic lyrics with which he has chosen to pepper his songs over the years have helped to create an ugly culture. Lyrics such as “bun a fire pon a puff and mister fagoty” and “you know we need no promo to rub out dem homo” are, quite simply, incitements to murder people because of their sexual orientation.

Some people complain that preventing Price from performing is to stifle free speech, but Tatchell reminds us:

Free speech does not include the right to incite the murder of other human beings. Such violent incitements close down free speech because the victims are intimidated into silence and invisibility.

The Swiss are able to deal with people like this, and have done quite recently too:

A reggae star who has gone back on a promise not to perform songs encouraging violence against lesbian and gay people has had a concert in Switzerland cancelled.

The performance by Capleton in Basel was due to take place on November 6th but was pulled by the organisers, according to local LGBT rights group Homosexuelle Arbeitsgruppen Basel (HABS).

HABS, together with Stop Murder Music Bern, opposed the concert because Capleton has performed songs encouraging violence against lesbian and gay people, in violation of his commitment to abide by the terms of the Reggae Compassionate Act (RCA).

They’re not alone – the Germans, the Canadians (the former instituting a ban on Sizzla entering the signatory countries to the Schengen Agreement) and other countries have all banned those in breach of the RCA from performing as well. Yet Bounty Killer actively defies the RCA and is allowed to perform in London. Just so you understand what I’m talking about, this is his act:

It seems that in the age of promoting equality and respecting diversity, the Metropolitan Police is unable to promote or respect equally – here favouring race over sexual orientation, but that should be no surprise. Peter Tatchell wrote in April this year – the last time such a shameful collusion between the police force and homophobe occurred in London:

The police seem to be letting Bounty Killer off the hook. He hasn’t signed the RCA. He dissed it. He has released songs urging the killing of gay people. Despite all this, the Met let him perform. When they act like this, how can we take seriously police claims that they are cracking down on homophobic hate crime?

We cannot.

Harman Sabotages Equality

This really shouldn’t surprise you. It’s the party of course which has seen a greater acceleration of the gap between rich and poor than at any period since Victorian times. But it’s not the wealth gap I want to illustrate here, it’s the party’s pathological determination to deport as many asylum seekers as possible, having either trampled on their human rights first or made it impossible to access them.

Last weekend Babi Badalov was deported back to Azerbaijan, and I want to contrast the party’s claims at its annual conference about equality and their public pledges to equality campaigners, with the disgusting reality. At his party’s annual conference (still) Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

And why do we always strive for fairness?

Not because it makes good soundbites.

Not because it gives good photo opportunities.

Not because it makes for good P.R.

No.

We do it because fairness is in our DNA.

It’s who we are – and what we’re for.

It’s why Labour exists.

It’s our first instinct, the soul of our party.

It’s why when things get tough, we get tougher. We stand up, we fight hard – for fairness. We don’t give in, and we never will.

For me fairness is treating others how we would be treated ourselves. So it isn’t levelling down but empowering people to aspire and reach ever higher. And to take advantage of all the opportunities of the global economy I want to unleash a new wave of rising social mobility across our country.

Fairness means abiding by the 1951 Geneva Convention. It is supposed to be a human rights instrument, the likes of which underpin any idea of fairness at home or abroad. Fairness means not rigging the system for all to fail. But despite Peter Tatchell receiving an assurance from Equalities Ministers Harriet Harman and Barbara Follett that their department would intervene in instances of homophobia and systematic unfairness in gay asylum seekers’ cases, Babi was deported anyway. The government claimed it was:

“absolutely committed to ensuring the asylum system treats everyone fairly,” a spokeswoman said.

“All relevant details are thoroughly examined, including claims of persecution on grounds of sexual orientation, and subject to independent scrutiny by the judiciary.

“Ministers are committed to looking into allegations of homophobia in the asylum system, and Mr Tatchell received a response within 24 hours of highlighting this case.”

But Peter Tatchell countered this, saying:

“This response was to say that Harriet and Barbara could not help in Babi’s case.

“Her junior advisers, who hold little sway with the Home Office, did make representations.

“But Harriet and Barbara, who have real clout, declined to so do.

“I emailed and phoned Harriet Harman’s office on September 18th and 19th about Babi’s case.

“I requested that Harriet and her Equalities deputy, Barbara Follett, urge the asylum minister Liam Byrne and the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to suspend Babi’s deportation pending his fresh appeal, based on new evidence.

“I was told by Harriet’s advisers that Harriet and Babara were at Labour Party conference and could not be contacted. This is nonsense.

“They have mobile phones and pagers. I was also told by them that Harriet and Barbara could not contact Liam Byrne and Jacqui Smith. This is also rubbish. They were all together at the Labour Party conference.

“This is utterly shameful. They never even tried. They broke their promise to help put right the unfair treatment of LGBT asylum claimants.”

So much for fairness. A full report of Tatchell’s communication with Britain’s so-called Equality Minister can be found here.

Pride 2008

I’ve gone to London’s Pride since 1994 – the year I came out. And in that time it’s gone from a popular but fringe event, with violence to navigate in Brixton, to a mainstream event in central London, co-funded and supported by City Hall and all the main political parties. This year’s was a particular success, led from the front by Mayor Boris Johnson, participated in by the Metropolitan Police and all the armed forces, and supported by the biggest crowd to date. Regulars like Stonewall‘s co-founder Sir Ian McKellen, Peter Tatchell (amusing everyone with a particularly and aptly cruel insult to Iranian President Ahmadinejad) and numerous community organisations and ordinary people enjoyed the sun and unprecedented support from hundreds of thousands of tourists and Londoners alike, which made this the best Pride in my recollection. It’s no mean feat with religious zealots and the far right nipping at our heels, but even the former were smaller in number than ever before. It was a good reminder that (whatever certain tabloids would have you believe), we really are everywhere and are supported in being who we are by a majority which is more at ease with itself than in living memory.

The photos are of course mine, and you can see them full-size at your leisure on my Flickr photostream. Comments there (as here) are welcome.