Police block Uganda’s fifth annual Pride Parade

Police block Uganda Pride Parade 2016. (Photo courtesy of VOA)
Police block Uganda Pride Parade 2016. (Photo courtesy of VOA)

Uganda police blocked the country’s LGBTI community from holding its fifth annual Pride Parade yesterday.

More than 100 people tried to convene on a beach in Entebbe on Lake Victoria but were ordered back into their minibuses by police and told to leave the area, human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo told BuzzFeed News.

“The police arrived at the venue before the event organizers,” Opiyo said.

Many participants then moved to Kisubu beach, but were blocked there too.

Gay rights activist Frank Mugisha said more than 100 LGBTI people tried to participate in the celebrations in Entebbe near Lake Victoria.

But many were escorted by police back to Kampala in minibuses. …

After being blocked from entering the Entebbe resort, several dozen participants moved on to another resort but were kicked out by officers.

This is the second time the LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex] community has tried to hold gay pride celebrations in Uganda this year. In August, the authorities broke up a beauty pageant and arrested activists. [BBC]

One man was injured, many were frightened and upset by police actions, but no one was arrested.

LGBT leader Frank Mugisha told Agence France-Presse that one man jumped from a moving minibus and injured himself.

“They are traumatized,” he said.

Some demonstrators said officers had been leading parade-goers back to a police station in Kampala, but Opiyo said “nobody has been formally arrested, as far as we know yet.” [BuzzFeed]

Preparations for Uganda Pride Parade 2016. (Photo courtesy of O-blog-dee)
Preparations for Uganda Pride Parade 2016. (Photo courtesy of O-blog-dee)

Some organizers were making preparations at the site when police arrived. As one activist reported:

6:00 am I was on my way to pick up the dancers. We set off to Entebbe at 7:30 and by 8:00am we were already at Pride venue to do the sound check preparing for the performances. The stage was already set, the P.A was set and the BBQ chef had started roasting the pork, chicken and beef. We didn’t forget to carry our placards, so we started taking photos of us as we wait for other people coming from Kampala to arrive. Just a few minutes after taking the photos, police came and commanded the stage and all rainbow decoration to be put down, the chef to pack all the food plus everyone else who was at the venue to leave immediately.

Thank God I was able to capture the early morning moments of Pride set up and I thank the 100s of LGBT  people who stood together and went ahead to step on the 2016 pride parade venues. They should be regarded as  heroes and heroines. [O-blog-dee]

Parade organizers had given police formal notification of their plans.

“In terms of the legal procedure, they ticked all the boxes,” Opiyo said.

Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s vehemently anti-LGBTI ethics minister, warned last week that Pride participants would be arrested and prosecuted.

LGBTI activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera confronts police at Ugranda Pride 2016. (Photo courtesty of Voices: Combating Homophobia In Uganda)
LGBTI activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera confronts police at Uganda Pride 2016. (Photo courtesty of Voices: Combating Homophobia In Uganda)

At first, no signs of trouble were evident at the Pride site. But then, as Voice of America reported:

[T]wo trucks carrying police arrived at the venue. Without explanation they ordered everyone back onto the buses. As the buses pulled away, many voiced their anger. …

“We are all Ugandans and we have the right to have this pride. We are mistreated like this! We are all Ugandans we deserve these rights… [They treat us] as if we are not normal,” said one activist.

Organizer and activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera was among those who refused to leave the venue.

“Now the police officer is telling us to leave, so I want clarity on what grounds should we leave. We are people who have come to have fun. Until he gives us reasons and any legal offenses that we’ve committed we aren’t going anywhere. Because this is a public park; we are Ugandans and we are here to celebrate pride,” Nabagesera said.

The police eventually towed Nabagesera’s car.

Activist Richard Lusimbo wrote, “As a community, yesterday’s events drew us even more close. Police tried to break our spirit for Pride but … the community more than ever was committed to having Pride at all cost. I want to thank my community for being so strong and turning up in big numbers to speak back to power that we are here to stay. Thank you, our bigger family within Uganda and around the globe. We appreciate and love you back.”

Nabagesera added on Facebook, “You did it, my fierce warriors. You did it. Thank you for standing up to what is right. … Thanks for singing and the resilience you showed. … To the Pride Committee, thank you so much for enduring all the unrealistic demands, insults, abuses. You stood high when many stood low. Thank you for a [wonderful] Pride.  Proud of you all.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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