Foyle Pride: United Christian Witness accuse Parades Commission of creating 'new battleground' between Christian protestors and the LGBT movement

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Protestors against the Foyle Pride parade believe the Parades Commission may have created a “new battleground” between Christians and the LGBT movement.

The commission has refused to allow the ‘United Christian Witness’ group to protest at its chosen spot at the Foyle Pride parade in Londonderry on Saturday.

It had applied to hold a protest from 1-4pm on Guild Hall Square, which would have located it at the dispersal point of the parade for 60 minutes after the parade. This would have located the preachers at the very location the parade was due to end – and where participants were due to gather for music and entertainment.

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However the commission ruled that based on complaints from last year, this held the potential for public disorder.

Protestors at the Pride parade in 2022 in Londonderry.Protestors at the Pride parade in 2022 in Londonderry.
Protestors at the Pride parade in 2022 in Londonderry.

Instead it said the protestors must be located a fifth of a mile away on The Diamond, and that their protest must end at the same time as the parade – at 3pm.

Two groups and one individual have been granted permission to protest at the parade.

However, tThe protestors claimed the restrictions create “a new battleground” between Christian protestors and the LGBT movement.

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United Christian Witness – which intends to protest to “declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ which states that the LGBT lifestyle is a sin and not to be celebrated” – had applied to protest at Foyle Pride.

The Foyle Pride Parade makes its way along Duke Street in Derry. 
Photograph: George Sweeney / Derry Journal. DER2234GS – 028The Foyle Pride Parade makes its way along Duke Street in Derry. 
Photograph: George Sweeney / Derry Journal. DER2234GS – 028
The Foyle Pride Parade makes its way along Duke Street in Derry. Photograph: George Sweeney / Derry Journal. DER2234GS – 028

In its ruling, the commission said that it “... believes that, should the protest take place without conditions, there may be an adverse impact on community relations, on community life and a potential for public disorder.”

It said that representation was received from a number of sources immediately after last year’s parade, expressing “significant concerns about the conduct of the protestors”.

“The behaviour complained of was viewed as unnecessarily provocative and risked escalating into public disorder and a breach of the peace. Concerns have been raised about the location of the protest in Guildhall Square.

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“This is the point of dispersal of the parade and, last year, resulted in protestors coming into direct contact with parade participants and festival goers.”

However, United Christian Witness strongly criticised the ruling. In a post on social media it said that the commission “has forced a Christian Witness to be moved due to the threat of violence or potential public disorder”.

It added: “In Northern Ireland we are well aware of such actions being taken in relation to Loyal Order Parades, Loyalist Parades or even Republican Parades but the Gospel outreach is now being treated in a similar manner.

“It seems in Northern Ireland there is now a new battleground which traditionally was between Catholic and Protestant Culture but is now between Born Again Christians and the LGBT Political movement.

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"This is rather strange because the Gospel witness causes no harm to anyone, the LGBT movement have a strap line ‘Love is Love’ yet it seems this love is only afforded to those who agree with them.”

Responding, the Parades Commission said that it did restrict a protest by Christians at Belfast Pride last year – to the location of City Hall.

However, the application by Abolish Abortion NI was withdrawn and it did not actually take place, it added.

Foyle Pride and the Rainbow Project were both invited to comment.