Mar 23, 2012

Rally to Stop the Hate: Brisbane 22nd March

The media coverage for this event leaves a lot unspoken so I will write what I saw happen here.

At 6pm in King George Square, Brisbane, approximately 400-500 people turned up to stop the "Hate Truck" run by Peter Madden.  He is a self-pronounced 'Christian Activist'.  I didn't get to see the truck, however as you can see on his website, the signs on it say "not my children! not on my watch!" and "the dark side of same-sex marriage. homosexual sex ed for your children".

Before I write about what happened at the event, let me just quickly explain what is wrong with these signs.  Children will not 'become homosexual' (or asexual, bisexual, pansexual or any other sexuality) just by learning about it in class.  Rather, they will just be educated in safe sexual practices that will ensure that they reduce their risk of diseases and health problems in the future. 

Sexual education is not a bad thing.  Learning to be tolerant and accepting of differences is not a bad thing.  Learning that love exists between all sorts of people is not a bad thing.  Making children feel accepted rather than stigmatised for their behaviours is not a bad thing.

Now on to the night!

We stood and chanted from 6pm to 7:30pm.  The majority of the chants were peaceful, however some were a bit problematic for me: "Fuck off, Madden, Fuck off!" and "1, 2, 3 and a bit, Madden is full of shit, 5,6,7, 8, we don't want your hate".  Personal attacks, to me, are not the right way to have a peaceful protest.  Telling them their homophobic views are not welcome is fine, but calling them 'shit' and telling them to 'fuck off' is another thing entirely.  "Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia's got to go" was a good one, as was the "What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!".  Each time there was a truck sighting or an anti-equal-rights-activist sighting, we were told to turn that way and chant some more.  There was even a song with a dance at one point.

There was one sighting of the truck at about 7:00pm-7:15pm and a lot of people ran after it.  They were all hastily recalled and reminded that this was a peaceful protest and to stay away from the truck.  One activist was arrested for standing near the truck.  They were later released without charge.  The police maintained a strong presence throughout the night.

All of a sudden, we were all looking at the top of King George Square (that is only accessible via stairs) and there were about 9-10 middle aged men and one woman (sorry for assuming their gender however, considering they're protesting 'gay marriage'...).  There were police guarding the stairs and the elevator to what I can only assume is an underground carpark where the truck was hidden.

One of the men (I assume Peter Madden) pulled out a guitar and started singing.  Our chanting grew louder.  One of the men leant over the balcony, seeming rather amused at what we were doing.  Then he seemed to start blessing us or praying for us.  I found this insulting and a bad move; you shouldn't interact with either side and this felt like a taunt.  This went on for about 15 minutes then, suddenly, three eggs sailed through the air, one narrowly missing hitting him in the face.  He just smiled and spread out his arms.  The police moved him away from the balcony.  He sat down but as soon as they were gone, stood up again to put his arms out towards us.  The police returned and he didn't do it again.

The egg throwers were not arrested, however I disagree with their tactics.  It makes us look like we're immature and can't be taken seriously (not to mention the animal rights implications of eggs).  It paints us as the bad guys.  Thankfully it was only one or two people who did it from what I can tell (considering only a few eggs were thrown).

The rest of the protest was peaceful; just chanting to drown out any homophobic comments made by the Madden group.  I left at 8pm but it was still going strong then.  I was followed down Queen Street by "Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia's got to go!".  I hope that it has helped to spread the message: equality is something people want and we're not going to stay silent about it.

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