Community organisations have called for Victoria’s Midsumma Festival to stop police officers from attending its upcoming Pride March in uniform.
LGBTIQA+ support service Switchboard Victoria said that it shared community concerns about state police marching in uniform, an issue that has long been debated around Pride events.
“Our position is informed by our daily work providing trauma-informed support for some of our most marginalised LGBTIQA+ people during their most difficult times,” said Switchboard in a statement.
The organisation specified that it was not calling for a ban on police officers at the event, only for them not to march in uniform.
Switchboard asked Midsumma Festival organisers to consider the impact of uniformed police on the ability of some community members to feel safe.
It acknowledged the ongoing work of police, LGBTIQA+ groups, and First Nations leaders to “rectify a long history of police brutality, mistreatment, and discrimination against marginalised communities”.
“Many past and serving Victoria Police members identify as LGBTIQA+, and some are amongst Switchboard’s service users,” the group said.
“We will always welcome these community members to access our services for support.”
Switchboard said that healing trauma and the relationships between police and minorities must begin with “confidential spaces for survivor-centred truth-telling processes”.
LGBTIQA+ groups and thousands of community members called on the festival earlier this year to ban uniformed police from marching.
The Victorian Pride Lobby said that it would welcome police to march as community members but not as a uniformed bloc.
“We’re not excluding police from participating in the march forever,” said Co-Convenor Nevena Spirovska.
“We are just saying at this moment in time the community does not feel safe.”
A report released by the Lobby showed that three quarters of LGBTIQA+ people did not want uniformed police at Pride events, along with almost 90% of trans people.
“Victoria’s LGBTIQA+ communities have experienced decades of harmful policing in this state, including several high-profile and fraught incidents in recent years,” said Co-Convenor Devina Potter.
The debate echoes community disagreement earlier this year in Queensland, where Brisbane Pride Festival organisers asked police not to attend its annual Pride March in uniform for similar reasons.
The decision raised concerns for LGBTIQA+ police officers, who were not permitted until recent years by the Queensland Police Service to march in uniform.
One of Australia’s biggest queer arts and cultural institutions, the Midsumma Festival runs from 23 January to 13 February.
The Midsumma Pride March will be held on Sunday 6 February.
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