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Police Service out in strength for Pride

  • Ensuring safety: Pride press conference in respect of Bermuda Pride celebrations (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

More than 50 police officers will be deployed to tackle any trouble at Bermuda’s first gay Pride event, it was revealed yesterday.

But Acting Superintendent Hashim Estwick said he expected Saturday’s celebration to be “very safe”.

Mr Estwick said: “What the Bermuda Police really want people to do is to celebrate in a safe environment and have some fun.

“We have in excess of 50 officers that will be available and there is a squad of marshals that will also be there to ensure that everybody’s safe.

“The persons involved in the parade are important and the protesters are important as well.

Mr Estwick added: “The message is, come out, be peaceful, kind and considerate to each other.”

Mr Estwick said three areas will be designated for protesters, but it was up to individuals if they wished to use them.

He added: “The police is not here to corral any person into a protest area. We believe that these areas are safe for the protesters.

“There is a separation where people can protest carefully and kindly and also to allow the process to go on.”

But Mr Estwick warned that the BPS was “more than prepared to respond to any threats”.

He added: “We have mined social media, we have conducted a barrage of investigation into possibilities and, based on our investigations, we believe this is going to be a very safe event.”

Mr Estwick added: “The churches, the main protest groups, have been telling their members to stay away. They do not want to draw more attention to it than it needs.”

David Northcott, one of the Bermuda Pride 2019 organisers, explained the reasons behind the parade and other events, which will include a panel discussion at the Hamilton Princess tomorrow evening.

He said: “First and foremost it’s an unapologetic, public celebration of the LGBTQI+ community in Bermuda.

“We are here, we belong and we are tremendously grateful for the support that we have received. We want to be visible and we want to have our allies visible as well.”

Mr Northcott said it was also an opportunity to “remember those who have gone before us”.

The date was chosen to mark the 25th anniversary of the Stubbs Bill, which in September 1994 decriminalised sex between consenting adult men.

Mr Northcott added: “We also remember those who have lost their lives along the way.

“Sometimes in Bermuda it has been a very difficult place to be open and free with who you are.

“There is bullying, there is harassment, there have been suicides and there has been murder.

“We want to remember those who have gone before and honour them and thank them for the work that they’ve done.”

Lorraine Shailer, cochairwoman of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce’s retail division, said that Saturday was the traditional busiest day for back-to-school shoppers.

She added: “We are completely open for business and ready for all your shopping needs, whether it’s back-to-school or any other shopping.”

Ms Shailer said disruption to on-street parking would be kept to a minimum and all car parks will be open throughout the day.

She added: “The retail division is certainly looking forward to the Saturday festivities and we positively encourage our shoppers to come out and enjoy a day in the city.”

Chen Foley, another Bermuda Pride organiser, explained that the Victoria Park venue was chosen because it was wheelchair accessible.

He added that the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society’s Daylesford Theatre had made its toilets available for wheelchair users.

Mr Foley said that anyone who took part in Pride was expected to be “respectful of those who might not agree”.

He added: “Our ask is that you not engage with them. Save your energy for having fun with us.”

Mr Foley said: “The journey for the queer community in Bermuda has been difficult.

“Pride might be emotional for some of the participants so we just ask you to be sensitive and a good neighbour to anybody who might be a little emotional throughout the events that take place.”

For more information visit www.bermudapride.net<;/i>