■ Gay Christian lay preacher
Davis Mac-Iyalla (right), the Ugandan seeking refuge in
the UK but who was 'incarcerated' in an asylum detention centre last
week, with Peter Tatchell and Sir Ian McKellen at Pride London on
photo courtesy Outrage!
LONDON, July 7, 2008 – Harriet
Harman MP, government minister of equalities and deputy leader of the Labour
Party, was booed and heckled as she spoke from the main stage at the gay
Pride London celebrations in Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon.
Gay Pride organisers came on stage
and appealed to the crowd to stop jeering and listen to what she had to say.
But their appeal had limited effect
as the crowd which packed Trafalgar Square expressed their anger at the
Government’s approach to gay men and women who seek refuge in the UK after
feeling from danger.
“At several points during her
speech, a bewildered Ms Harman appeared to waiver and had to struggle to be
heard,” said gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was at the side
of the stage – he was also one of the speakers.
“Hundreds of people in the crowd
expressed their anger at the way the Labour government is locking up gay
asylum seekers, refusing them refugee status and ordering them to be sent
back to violently homophobic countries like Algeria, Uganda, Iran, Nigeria,
Iraq and Belarus,” he said.
“Those who are returned are at risk
of arrest, imprisonment torture, rape and even murder.
“I tried to explain the crowd’s
anger to Ms Harman as she left the stage,” he continued.
“But several Gay Pride stewards
violently shoved me out of the way and threatened to have me arrested. It
was needless and unjustified aggression.
“As I was being dragged away by the
stewards, Ms Harman shouted for me to contact her. She said: ‘Peter, give
me a call and we can discuss your concerns’.
“I will take up her offer. I plan
to present the government with a six-point plan to end the homophobic bias
of the asylum system,” said Mr Tatchell.
And in another incident in
Trafalgar Square, a transgender was threatened with arrest by official Gay
Roz Caveney, a long-time human
rights campaigner, journalist and transsexual woman, wanted to use the
“Official stewards who were running
the toilets at Trafalgar Square announced that I, and any other transgender
or transsexual woman, had to use the disabled toilets and was not allowed to
use the regular women's toilets,”
she wrote on the Transgender At Pride website.
“I pointed out to the stewards that
I transitioned and had surgery before they were born; I was more polite than
a polite thing. No dice…”
Earlier, Mr. Tatchell marched in
the Pride Parade holding a poster placard ridiculing the Iranian President,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It featured a doctored photo of Amhadinejad wearing
blue eye shadow, red lipstick, a gold earring and pink nail varnish.
He met the Mayor of London, Boris
Johnson, and urged him to confound his gay critics and show practical
support for London's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Mr Tatchell marched in the parade
with actor Sir Ian McKellen and Davis Mac-Iyalla, a leader of the Nigerian
gay rights movement.
“Mr Mac-Iyalla was recently forced
to flee Nigeria after threats and attempts to kill him, following homophobic
denunciations by the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Rev Peter Akinola.
Akinola is a leading figure in the conservative splinter group, Gafcon,
which opposes women bishops and gay priests, and which supports punitive
legal discrimination against lesbian and gay people,” said Mr Tatchell.
“Davis arrived in Britain seeking
sanctuary but was incarcerated in an asylum detention centre.
“The government treated him like a
“It took a frantic lobbying
campaign to pressure the Home Office to release Davis. He was only set free
from Oakington detention centre at 5pm on Friday, the eve of the Pride
“Although it is good that he was
released, the Home Office should have never incarcerated him in the first
place,” added Mr Tatchell.
Speaking from the main stage in
Trafalgar Square, Mr Tatchell condemned “President Amadinejad’s violent
homophobia” and “the Labour government’s policy of deporting lesbian and gay
asylum claimants back to Iran”.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith MP last
month refused requests for a moratorium on the return of gay asylum seekers
to Iran, claiming “the evidence does not show a real risk of discovery of,
or adverse action against, gay and lesbian people who are discreet about
their sexual orientation”.
“This is complete nonsense and
deeply insulting,” said Mr Tatchell. “It is like saying that Jews in Nazi
Germany were safe if they hid their Jewishness.”
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Licence.
Posted: 7 July 2008 at
14:00 (UK time)