• Kristin Perissinotto

Requesting no police uniforms at Pride is not discrimination

Brisbane Pride has asked the Queensland Police Service (QPS) not to march in uniform at this weekend's pride festivities. Since 2015, the QPS has had a uniformed contingent join the march, along with uniformed paramedics and firefighters. The QPS has agreed to the request, saying they still welcome cops in the LGTBQIA+ community to march in plain clothes. The request came after a QPS-run Facebook group called 'Defend the Blue' was found to be posting homophobic, racist, and sexist content.

In today's world, one thing we can absolutely count on is people refusing to accept, and use, nuance. People and identities can be celebrated without upholding an institution. Requesting individuals not wear a uniform that creates an unsafe environment is simply not discrimination. If lockdown and anti-vaxxer protests have taught us anything, it's that the most privileged individuals do not react well to what they perceive to be oppression.

The story has predictably taken off in conservative circles on social media, where the Pride committee has been labelled discriminatory and has been accused of 'marginalising' police. Bec Johnson, the spokesperson for Brisbane Pride has said:

“We have agreed for them to march out of uniform this year while we work through two things- the first is an acknowledgment, because while the Queensland Government has provided acknowledgment of police brutality and homophobia, the police themselves haven’t- that would be historic for Queensland. Other states and territories have done that but we haven’t. The second thing is that we would like to see the outcome of the current investigation. I think the message has been contorted, but we are definitely not about excluding people, that’s not how we do things.”

The Police Commissioner, Katarina Carroll, has accepted the request and agreed not to organise a uniformed contingent for the rally. By all official accounts, it's a done deal. To our knowledge, nobody from the LQTBQIA+ community, from the QPS or otherwise, has challenged this decision. But that doesn't mean there isn't backlash.

Critics have leapt to defend the police (who actually have not made any statement that suggests they want defending), once again, predictably trying to use 'leftist' theories and arguments against Brisbane Pride. But regulations around clothing and uniforms aren't new. For example, you are not allowed to wear political propaganda when entering a polling both - this is upheld when you are working at said polling booth or working for a politician, and you could argue that there's even less genuine reason for that. When going into a booth, voters have just walked past multiple people with corflutes, flyers, and T-shirts with candidates faces on them - what's the difference if one more is inside the polling area?

Content warning: racist behaviour, violence, police brutality

Footage has come out this month from a body cam of a Queensland police officer, who, while arresting a mentally ill African-Australian man said “Yeah mate … If you let us handcuff you, we’ll fucking let you breathe.” The incident happened less than six weeks after George Floyd died at the knee of US police in 2020, pleading “I can’t breathe”.

This is the QPS known to marginalised groups. This is the police force people of colour fear. It's not about politics, as the critics claim, it's about human rights. It's about institutionalised racism. It's about a corporation that doesn't train officers to handle situations without reliance on violence. Without acknowledging its active part in creating fear in certain communities when they see the uniform, the QPS will not repair its reputation. That is the first step of many.