"Festival will be safe, despite EDL march" - Pride organisers
Organisers of this year’s Bristol Pride Festival insist their main event will be safe for families to attend – despite the EDL march taking place the same day.
The main part of the festival - which celebrates the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the city – will be a parade and day-long event in College Green.
But in another part of the city, the English Defence League are holding a controversial march from Redcliffe Square to Queen Square.
Meanwhile, a group of trade unions, community groups and anti-racist organisations called We Are Bristol will stage a counter demonstration opposite the Bristol Hippodrome at the same time.
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Council leader Simon Cook has already given the far right EDL group, which describes itself as an anti-Islamist organisation, a clear message – “We don’t want you in Bristol”.
About 500 EDL members are expected to attend the march, with about 1,000 police officers being called in to keep the peace.
After safety concerns from some people hoping to attend Pride, the festival’s spokesman has urged people to still come along and support it.
Earlier today a Twitter user calling himself Aminorjourney posted: “Seriously considering NOT going to Bristol Pride events with my kids because of [the EDL march].”
But after reassurance from festival spokesman Daryn Carter, the Twitter user said he would go along for the march.
Mr Carter told ThisisBristol: “Pride is safe. The police are working very hard to ensure there is no trouble at all and no clashes. All eyes are on the police and the council.
“The good news is that they have moved the EDL march to the other side of the city centre and it will be later in the day than the Pride parade.”
Originally, both events were due to take place late morning, with the Pride parade going from Berkeley Square to College Green and the EDL march going from Castle Park to Queen Square.
“There is a clear message coming from all corners,” said Mr Carter. “That includes the EDL. They are not here to disrupt Pride.
“They say they are protecting gay rights – whether you agree with that or not is beside the point.”
Mr Carter said it had been a difficult year for the festival – even before the EDL announced its plans to march.
“It is unfortunate that this is happening on the same day as Pride,” he said. “It has been difficult enough to get things together this year – lots of funding has gone to the Olympics and we have had to be really creative. All the artists are performing for free.
“One good thing coming out of all this is that lots of people are saying they will come along to Pride, because they want to show their support and combat prejudice.
“So our message is – it will be safe, please come along and support Pride.”
Paul Stephenson, who received an OBE earlier this year for his work with race relations in the city, has urged council leaders to review their decision not to ban the march. A petition was handed in last week asking cabinet councillors to call on Home Secretary Theresa May to stop the march. Cabinet Councillor Gary Hopkins said there was not the slightest chance of winning a ban without a police recommendation.
Policing the EDL march is expected to cost £500,000 and involve about 1,000 police officers.
The main “We Are: Proud” event will be at College Green on Saturday when a free day-long festival will be held featuring two stages of live music and five performance areas.
More than 40 acts have already signed up including Tanya Hyde, Bristol’s biggest LGBT choir Singout Bristol and eight-piece female funk band Meet Your Feet.
In the evening, the Pride Street Fiesta will include outside DJs before a takeover of the 02 Academy.
For further information about the events, visit the website www.wearefest.com.
For tickets, visit the website www.bristolticketshop.com.