Police failed our young

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This year’s LGBT Pride event was both an emotional and happy occasion, recognising and celebrating the wonderful diversity of Sheffield.

It was sad that a group of Evangelical Christians felt that it was appropriate to disrupt the peaceful celebrations with their loathsome and hateful bigotry and literature announcing that ‘the wages of sin are death’.

After a stand-off watched by the police who we implored to move the offensive people to the edge of the park it was left to LGBT people and their supporters to push the protesters and the Bibles they were waving out of the park.

The LGBT crowd and their allies were then left to clear up the hateful leaflets the protesters had left behind them.

For many people I suspect it was cathartic to dispose of the offensive leaflets in the rubbish bins where many of us believe they belong.

It is shameful that the police didn’t act earlier to remove the fundamentalists to the edge of the park where they could espouse their hatred without ruining the day for others.

Some of our young people left the park in tears whilst the police stood by saying it was their role to protect freedom of speech and that no one was being physically hurt.

As well as offensive literature being given out I understand some of the language of the protesters was offensive towards the LGBT community and yet the police failed to act to protect our young people.

Minutes earlier a South Yorkshire Police spokesperson had spoken on the main stage, encouraging people to report hate crimes.

We did report a hate incident and nothing happened.

Young people, some of whom are not ‘out’ to their families or friends, were photographed and videoed by the bigots and were upset that they may be identified.

We spend a lot of our time talking to our young people about reporting hate Incidents to the police and assuring them that they will be well received by the police who will take their complaints seriously.

The actions (or inaction) of police officers will have done little to persuade them of this.

Should they experience future hate incidents I worry that they may not feel confident in reporting them.

We will need to do lots of work to rebuild young people’s trust in South Yorkshire Police and in ensuring them that LGBT young people can count on being protected – many years of excellent work thrown away on one day!

Steve Slack

CEO, Sheena Amos Youth Trust