Read: Did the Pride Board consult widely enough?

During the past week we have seen a huge outpouring of anger and grief over the Auckland Pride Board’s decision to ban police uniforms from the 2019 Auckland Pride Parade. I have been incredibly disappointed by the public displays of this anger and some of the behind the scenes abuse members of our communities are receiving. 

In order to make some sense of this situation, I have been talking to various people and groups privately about their views on what has gone on.

Before I share those views and make a few conclusions of my own, I just want to step through the process the Board went through as I understand it. 

The Process:

Auckland Pride held four hui this year to gain feedback from the Auckland Rainbow Communities about the annual parade and festival. According to a press release from the Board of Pride dated 15th November what the Board heard at these hui was this:  complaints about Police consistently outnumbered feedback about any other institution or organisation.”

Consequently, the Board organised what they called a special ‘Hot Topic’ hui in October 2018 to get deeper and specific consultation about the Police. 

I have spoken to a number of people who attended these hui, and they say, despite small numbers of attendees at the hui many of them shared deeply personal and painful experiences they have had with police.

In an interview with Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand, Board Chair Cissy Rock stated that Police officers who attended these hui and heard these stories were deeply affected and embarrassed by what they heard. 

There has been an assumption by some in the community that the four hui and the ‘Hot Topic’ hui in particular were hijacked by the group People Against Prisons Aotearoa, (PAPA), and that the stories told in the hui were by people ‘planted’ in the meetings by PAPA. 

While PAPA did turn up officially at the ‘Hot Topic’ hui, it is my understanding they did not attend the other hui as a group. One person who attended a number of hui tells me there were a wide variety of people who spoke at those other hui and that they don’t believe there was a concerted effort to push an agenda.  

After these hui, the Board voted to ban police uniforms from the parade and began a dialogue with the police about this. 

The Aftermath:

One of the problems I encountered in trying to come to grips with this issue is the lack of information and the vague responses to requests for that information from Pride. Lets go back to Pride’s press release of November 15th and this paragraph:

“Issues and concerns relating to New Zealand Police were raised again and again throughout a series of four Auckland Pride Community Hui that were held across Tāmaki Makaurau during August. Complaints about Police consistently outnumbered feedback about any other institution or organisation.” 

This is incredibly vague. To use words such as “time and time again” and “consistently outnumbered feedback” is useless without actual numbers or the stories that people were telling.

In saying this I am not buying into arguments around ‘majority rules,’ I am simply stating that it is impossible to come to a fair conclusion about this issue unless we have some actual evidence. 

Why did the Board not share the stories they heard? There are a number of other questions that follow on from this.

Who were the people who got up and spoke?  Were the allegations historical or recent?  Did they occur randomly or during police investigations into crimes?

These questions are not designed to diminish those who shared their stories at the hui – but rather, to gain a richer narrative that explains the rationale behind the Board’s decision. If confidentiality was an issue, we could still have some basic information about the types of people who were speaking and the circumstances these incidents occurred.

More detail would give us all insight into a side of life that many of us do not, or have not experienced.

Further consultation:

It is my understanding that several of the board members voted against the ban. That should have given them all pause on such a contentious issue, and a desire to look into it more thoroughly. 

During my own investigations I have contacted a number of queer organisations and people with strong connections to our Rainbow Communities.  Surprisingly, none of them were consulted by Auckland Pride either before or after the decision. 

More than once in my discussions, people questioned the timing of the decision. Perhaps with hindsight, the Pride Board could have put out a consultation paper outlining their concerns and spent the next year getting feedback about it. The 2019 Festival could also have had events, or utilised existing events such as the Big Gay Out, to canvas a wider cross-section of Queerdom. 

Who knows what they might have heard if they had consulted more widely?  It’s entirely possible that many more people, other than those at the hui, might have told similar stories. At the very least, it would have engaged the community in a very worthwhile dialogue.

In light of all this, the Board’s decision, while potentially well-intentioned, has been divisive and incredibly counterproductive.

Undoubtedly there are people who are still marginalised in our communities and the New Zealand Police Force still has work to do to address that. Perhaps now, we can start a bigger discussion about participation and what inclusion and exclusion really feels like. 

I for one, want to hear the stories of those still marginalised in our society. To that end, I invite people to contact me either through Facebook or via my website and tell me your stories. I can’t promise that I will be able to interview you all, but I do want to hear what you have to say and when I can, and with your permission, I will share them. 

9 COMMENTS

  1. I understand that seven hui were held to consult people. I did not attend any of these but usually such hui would follow Chatham House rules and personal stories would not be shared after the event. Telling of assaults and abuse can re-traumatise people.

    I’ve seen the photos of my friend’s scars from the assault from behind from a police officer last year. Youngish and Pasefika and queer. I’ve seen the aggression from a police officer towards a young gay friend before I stepped in between them. I’m now old enough that I’m no longer a target for such violence unless I seek to protect someone else. I now remember being assaulted by police when I was young and caught between two groups at a rally. No I wasn’t breaking the law and No I didn’t complain. The cop had hidden his badge so I couldn’t prove who it was.

    How many stories do people need to realise there’s a problem? Look at the lessons from #MeToo and complaints against Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Bill Cosby. How many years of complaints were needed before action? What of abuse of children in state care? People are starting to accept that it happened. Some don’t believe there’s ongoing abuse of other people in institutions like disabled people and elderly people in care.

    What the Pride Board have asked for is a comparatively small thing. People can leave their uniforms at home and march as individuals. Or not. It’s not compulsory. Organisations can work harder on being inclusive. It’s one thing to march in a Pride parade, it’s another thing to drop mandatory M and F fields from company forms and to be respectful towards gender minority and sexuality diverse staff and customers.

    • Because it’s not a ‘small thing’. Therein lies the problem.

      Structural issues in policing cannot be solved through the Pride Parade.

      Structural issues in policing can be solved through hui, through information campaigns, through dialogue, through the slow work of getting people on board (such boring work I know, but critical).

      • Andrew Whiteside

        Thank you for your thoughts Christopher.

    • Andrew Whiteside

      thank you for your comment Kay.

  2. Nobody is trying to solve structural issues in policing through the Pride Parade. What the uniform ban seeks to do is to make the Parade accessible to some of the more marginalised in our community. People who do not feel comfortable marching alongside the police uniform. It is about inclusion of all in our community, not solving the problems of the police. The police need to do that themselves.

    • Andrew Whiteside

      Hi Frankie. My understanding is that a process has been going on for some time in the NZ Police to address many of these issues. There are people who believe that the process is not happening fast enough. Thanks for your comment.

    • Well said Frankie. And yes, Andrew if this uniform ban serves as an encouragement to police to do more and faster, that’s good too.

  3. The problem with these types of hui is that only those who are passionate about a cause and determined to speak out, actually attend. The rest of us who are happy with the way things are don’t really give it much thought.
    Whether this is right or wrong isn’t the issue. It just needs to be acknowledged, and in doing so realising that these types of meeting are ultimately useless as tools to make sweeping decisions.
    There are other suggestions that have been put forward that would have had much more comprehensive input.

    • Andrew Whiteside

      Thank you for your perspective Jim.

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