MP leaves Hanley Pride 'with police escort' as trans rights campaigners stage 'noisy' protest - Stoke-on-Trent Live
Trans rights campaigners staged a noisy protest aimed at Conservative politicians attending Stoke-on-Trent Pride. Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Jo Gideon left the event, in Hanley Park on Saturday, with a police escort following the 'peaceful but loud' demonstration.
A group of around 20 protestors, members of the LGBT+ Society at Staffordshire University, were demonstrating against the government's decision to exclude trans people from a proposed ban on conversion therapy. They paraded around the Conservative tent holding placards and chanting slogans such as 'trans rights are human rights'.
The government has said that it will ban conversion therapy aimed at changing people's sexual orientation, but not their gender identity. Ministers claim that banning transgender conversion therapy is complicated and could have 'unintended consequences'. But campaigners say it will leave trans people vulnerable to therapy which they say amounts to 'torture'.
Student Sam Hutchinson, who was among those who took part the protest, wants Ms Gideon and other politicians to engage with them on this issue.
Sam said: "We were protesting against the government's refusal to ban trans conversion therapy, as it is mine and many others' belief that it’s a violation of human rights.
"It was organised by a few friends of mine in the LGBT+ society of our university. We’ve previously protested outside the Catalyst Building on our campus and we wanted to protest in a safe, calm, non-aggressive manner but so that our voices and the voices of our community were heard by Parliament.
"I personally am very proud of the unity we showed at the protest and the engagement we saw with the Pride event and particularly the mass group that joined their voices with ours to help our views be heard.
"I personally believe Jo Gideon should have come and spoken to us and hope she will still attempt to reach out so we can discuss these issues and concerns of our community."
Ms Gideon, who attended the event with Conservative city council leader Abi Brown, claimed she was the target of 'non-stop abuse' from 'extremist protestors'. She also claims that her banner was vandalised and that the demonstrators 'refused to engage constructively' – although the protesters and Stoke-on-Trent Pride organisers say the protest was peaceful.
Ms GIdeon said: “I attended Stoke Pride as the local Member of Parliament and as someone who values diversity and equality. It is important to me that I show my support at Pride, which is meant to be a community festival welcoming everyone and celebrating diversity in our city.
"Freedom of speech matters, and I would hope we can all agree that it is only through dialogue, and talking to one another with compassion and a genuinely open mind that we can build a happier, and safer community and reduce division. That is why I abhor the actions of several dozen extremist protesters, who blocked the path and surrounded the Conservatives’ LBGTQ+ stand, where Councillor Abi Brown and I stood with a member of my staff.
"These protesters were shouting non-stop abuse. After waiting for the protest to move on for 30 minutes, I decided the only way to diffuse the situation, and putting people’s safety first, was to leave. I was grateful for a police escort to my car. I received a number of messages after the event from constituents who were at Pride and saw the protest unfold and felt intimidated by the protesters’ actions."
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: "There was a confirmed protest of approximately 20 people which ended when event security and police attended. MP Jo Gideon left before the protest ended."
Robert Mole, logistics manager at Stoke-on-Trent Pride, said organisers did not know the protest was going to happen, but once they became aware of it they co-ordinated with police to help ensure it remained peaceful.
He said: "It was a peaceful protest, albeit a loud one. The police agreed that people had a right to protest peacefully. I'm not sure how long it was, but after a while Jo Gideon made the decision herself to leave Pride."
Robert said that this year's Stoke-on-Trent Pride event had been a 'wonderful' success, which drew thousands of people to Hanley Park, including 2,000 in the main arena.
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