Belfast Telegraph

Woman questioned after Jim Wells' complaint over anti-DUP banner at Belfast Pride parade

By Claire Williamson

A woman who carried an anti-DUP placard bearing a swear word at the Belfast Pride parade has been interviewed by police.

Police launched an investigation into the complaint which was lodged by the DUP's Jim Wells in August.

Mr Wells said he had reported Eleanor Evans (24) 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.

Eleanor, from Southend but lives in Belfast, said organisers of Belfast Pride stopped her from carrying the anti-DUP sign which said "F*** the DUP".

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

A banner with the same slogan was carried at in the London Pride parade.

She was interviewed by police last week.

Speaking to the BBC Nolan show Eleanor said: "I got the sign taken off me by a Pride steward.

"The police asked me to come in for questioning because there had been accusations against me - one was public order and the other was inciting hate. "

She said she was asked if she thought the F word was "offensive" and was it "ok for children to have seen it".

She continued: "It was very intimidating, I've never been questioned by the police before and I just couldn't believe it was something I was having to do for exercising my democratic rights to protest at Belfast Pride Event, which started as a protest."

Miss Evans said she believed the PSNI were "wasting time" questioning people about the F word which was taking resources away from other areas.

"It's quite a bad situation to be in, I had a similar sign in London pride which I had no issues with there. That comparison is quite interesting."

She continued: "I still don't know what's going to happen.

"It's quite nerve-wracking but personally I don't feel like I did anything wrong and will stand up for my right to protest."

When asked if she would do it again she said while she "stands by the sign",  she doesn't want to be "hauled into a police station any time soon".

A DUP spokesman said: “This complaint was not submitted by the DUP. If a member submitted the complaint it was on their own initiative, which they are entitled to do.

"It is a matter for the police to deal with and would not be appropriate for the party to comment.”

At the time the Belfast Organisers defended their response in removing the sign.

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."

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