Belfast Telegraph

PSNI investigating Jim Wells' complaint over anti-DUP banner at Belfast Pride parade

By Claire Williamson

Police are investigating a complaint over an anti-DUP banner at the Belfast Pride parade.

It comes after it was revealed that organisers of Belfast Pride stopped a woman from carrying an anti-DUP sign at the parade.

Eleanor Evans (24) from Southend but lives in Belfast told Pink News that an official at the demonstration told her that if she didn’t discard her ‘F*** the DUP’ sign, she couldn’t continue marching.

The organisers believed that her placard breached the Parades Commission’s guidelines on “using words or behaviour considered sectarian, abusive, insulting or lewd”.

Ms Evans told Pink News: “(A Pride official came) running towards me with such a strange sense of urgency, as if I was holding a gun or something.

“He started saying ‘You can’t have that sign, you can’t have it’. And I was sort of like ‘Why? What’s going on?’”

A banner with the same slogan was carried at last month’s London Pride parade.

Ms Evans complained about the Belfast organisers’ response, but they strongly defended their actions.

In a statement, they said they “explained to the person concerned that we felt it breached the Parades Commission’s guidelines ... as well as Belfast Pride’s Parade Terms and Conditions”.

Belfast Pride chair Sean O'Neill said they acted "quickly" to deal with the incident and that it was handled in an "appropriate and professional way"

In a statement he said: "All parades in Northern Ireland are regulated by the Parades Commission – the Belfast Pride parade is no exception and this context is important.

"Belfast Pride has to apply formally to get permission for parade to go ahead each year and we are held responsible for the conduct of the parade and we take our responsibility seriously.

"We have more legal restrictions on our parade than any other Pride in Western Europe and yet LGBT people here currently have fewer rights than in any other jurisdiction in Western Europe."

He added: "During the Belfast Pride parade, two of our staff dealt with the situation around this sign and explained to the person concerned that we felt it breached the Parades Commission's guidelines as well as Belfast Pride’s Parade Terms and Conditions."

DUP MLA Jim Wells said he had reported Ms Evans to the PSNI, and urged the Parades Commission to take action, as he believed she had contravened its rules.

“The poster was grossly offensive to the 300,000 people who voted DUP in elections this year,” he said.

The PSNI confirmed they were investigating.

In a statement police said they have received a complaint in relation to a placard displayed during the Belfast Pride event on Saturday 5th August 2017.

Detective Inspector Lisa McCambridge said: “We will examine the complaint to establish if any offence has been committed.”

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