The East End Gay march has been cancelled following claims of links between one of the founding organisers and far right and anti-Muslim groups.
The cancellation of the march on April 2 follows the resignation of founding member of East End Gay Pride, Raymond Berry, after being condemned for allegedly affiliating with far right English Defence League and anti-Muslim groups.
However, members of the Pride team blamed the cancellation on “vendettas” and “personal attacks” from several groups and individuals including local gay activist organisations, Rainbow Hamlets and OutEast.
In an official statement they said: “It is with deep regret that the East End Gay Pride team have collectively decided to cancel the march on April 2. In a day and age where the LGBT community of East London should be working together to combat hatred of any nature, we have found it shocking that OutEast and Rainbow Hamlets have continuously set out to divide the community.”
The organisation said ealier this week that Berry had assured them he was no longer part of the EDL.
“The remaining members of the East End Gay Pride would like to state for the record that we do not support or condone anything that the EDL stand for, ” they said.
The East End Gay Pride march, led by a group of friends, came about as an attempt to combat homophobia, following the appearance of several ‘Gay-Free Zone’ posters in the East End.
Local gay rights group, OutEast chose not to associate with the event accusing the organisers of ‘stigmatising’ Muslims and having ties with the English Defense League.
OutEast co-ordinator, Terry Stewart explained in a statement how he supported the cancellation of the march, saying that the campaign against it was a political decision.
He said: “We’ve worked very hard over the past two weeks to expose the organisation for what they were, and who they were. The community was not going to be split by a group of people coming in with another agenda which was completely against our ethos of community cohesion and communities living together.”
Other gay rights groups like Pride London and Outrage! have also withdrawn their support for the parade.
Human rights campaigner and Outrage! member, Peter Tatchell, has also distanced himself from the parade calling for the event to be postponed. “We fear the march will be exploited and hijacked by the far right to create divisions and stir up intolerance against Muslim people,” he said.
“OutRage! opposes both homophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. All forms of intolerance are wrong. The gay, Muslim, Jewish, Asian and black communities know the pain of prejudice and discrimination. We should stand together, united against hate. Let’s celebrate East London’s multicultural diversity. Don’t let bigotry divide us. Together, we can defeat the hate-mongers. ”
East End Gay Pride organisers have accused OutEast for doing nothing to tackle homophobia in east London.
Terry Stewart argued that the cancellation of the event “makes no difference” to OutEast’s work. He said they continue to talk to police and the council and working on plans for an event in Victoria Park in September.