Auckland Pride Parade is set to go ahead next year without the police marching.
The police pulled out of the parade after being asked by the pride board not to march in uniform.
So far, eight sponsors and participants have pulled out of next year’s parade following the board’s decision.
Vodafone, BNZ, ANZ, Westpac, NZME, the Ponsonby Business Association, NZDF and the Rainbow New Zealand Trust have all withdrawn from the parade.
Auckland Pride board chair Cissy Rock said Pride is not about the financial support from backers, but celebrating with friends and members of the LGBTIQ community.
“One of the biggest criticisms we got was that Pride’s too corporate, so I don’t think that Pride is reliant on corporate sponsorship,” she said.
However, chair of the Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust, Gresham Bradley, told Morning Report the board’s decision contradicts the purpose of his organisation.
“The uniform is an integral part of being in the police force,” he said.
“Last year the Police marched in full uniform without any problems and it was one of the most wonderful moments along with the New Zealand Defence Force,” he said.
Mr Gresham has been the chair of Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust, formally known as the Gay and Lesbian Business Association, since 2010.
The trust is supported by a range of organisations, including donors such as the navy and Air New Zealand, and fundraises for some organisations and projects in the community.
In 2011 Mr Bradley chaired the committee which led to the formation of the Auckland Pride Festival Trust in 2012 and the following year, the Pride parade was re-born – 12 years after the last Hero Parade.
Mr Bradley said he believes there’s very little in the way of actual evidence to justify the police are oppressive to some in the LGBTIQ community.
And the legitimacy of some of the community member’s unsafe feelings need to be questioned.
“It’s the feeling of the unsafe part and the process of actually working with those feelings and identifying where they come from and indeed the legitimacy of them,” he said.
“The bulk of the community do not accept the claims that have been made by this small group.”
He said his organisation isn’t aware of many incidents between police and gay men, lesbians or transgender people.
“Nobody should be excluded from the parade as long as they adhere to the values of pride.”
He said the board hasn’t engaged with either police or those against the police marching in uniform, on the issue.
And that the board claim they are representing the complaints of the broader Māori and Pasifika communities.
However, the Auckland Pride Board says it has worked with both the Police and those who have concerns and over three months have held seven community hui to discuss issues such as this.
“There’s really not an awful lot more this organisation (the Police) could do,” he said.
Mr Gresham said the parade costs over $100,000 to put on and questioned where the money would come from if not from the sponsors.
“The whole thing is on the edge of collapsing.”
But Cissy Rock says they will not backtrack on their decision even as sponsors pull out.
A Special General Meeting (SGM) will be held in the coming weeks and it is believed some members are instigating a vote of no confidence in the board.
This is not the first instance of police not marching in uniform at pride parades around the world.
In Minneapolis it was the police chief himself who decided not to march in the parade which he said was out of respect for the local LGBTIQ community.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo asked his officers to march in plain clothes if they wished to take part in this year’s parade.
He said he was committed to ensuring the police increased its capacity to build allyship and acknowledged the pride representatives had conveyed to him the pain and harm that had occurred in their community which had not been addressed. He said this was specifically LGBTIQ communities of colour.
In Toronto this year police withdrew their application to march in uniform in the pride parade. The previous year they were banned from marching and their decision to reapply caused controversy.
Chief of police Mark Saunders said while he has expressed his sincere commitment to strengthen and renew the relationship between pride and the police, he was conscious of the need to avoid any setback that would undermine this objective and he wanted his decision to reflect that he is listening closely to community concerns.
Also this year, London Pride asked police officers to not march in uniform and Police Chief John Pare encouraged his officers still to participate saying that while he was disappointed, pride is about inclusivity and London Police are committed to working on training, consulting with the LGBTIQ community and educating officers and staff.
This story originally appeared on Radio New Zealand.