Seoul police cowed by homophobic Protestant groups in denying LGBT event

Posted on : 2015-06-06 13:57 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Police claim their decision was fair, but are facing criticism for denying LGBT event with 15 year history
 June 3. Permit are issued on a first-come first-served basis
June 3. Permit are issued on a first-come first-served basis

Seoul police are facing mounting criticism for their decision to ban a major LGBT event, in what many are calling a capitulation to conservative Protestant groups that have been openly hostile to the community.

As a reason for banning the planned Queer Cultural Festival Parade, police cited a counterprotest request filed by a Protestant group in an apparent attempt to disrupt the proceedings. But in accommodating the tactic of infringing on a group’s freedom of association by “getting there first,” police also disregarded a Supreme Court ruling finding the practice unfair.

On May 28, the organizing committee for the Queer Cultural Festival submitted a notice of the event’s LGBT parade event to Seoul’s Namdaemun Police Station and the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. On May 30, the police notified them that the gathering had been banned.

Police also rejected a notice filed by a conservative Protestant group for a demonstration at the same time and location as the parade.

“There were concerns about the possibility of a clash, as the times and locations of the two groups’ parades overlapped and their aims were in conflict,” the police said.

“There were also concerns about disruption to traffic on major roads,” they added.

While the decision to ban both may seem fair at first glance, the parade ban amounted to an acknowledgment of the conservative groups’ incitement of hatred.

“They say they are banning both gatherings, but in the end they’ve sided with the group that’s trying to disrupt the festival,” said Queer Cultural Festival organizing committee chair Kang Myeong-jin on June 4.

Jang Se-yeon, who chairs the sexual minority rights committee for the group MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, said the decision “destroyed the basic democratic principles of diversity of opinion and freedom of expression.”

Namdaemun Police Station already has experience with banning a similar gathering in the past, only to receive a Supreme Court ruling finding its actions unlawful. In 2009, a conservative group filed a demonstration notice to prevent a gathering by an environmental group opposing the Four Major Rivers Project. The environmental group’s organizers were later indicted after they went ahead with the gathering in spite of the decision.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the chief of the Namdaemun Police Station should “take into account the aims of the demonstration that was announced first, and, when it is clear that a notice has been falsified or exaggerated to prevent the holding of another demonstration, he should not ban the demonstration that was announced later.”

Last year, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon attempted to honor an election pledge by enacting a “human rights charter” for the city, only to give up when Protestant groups vehemently objected to a provision banning discrimination about LGBT individuals. Since then, the groups’ hate speech and actions have become more aggressive and organized, LGBT groups claim.

Queer Cultural Festivals have been held each of the past fifteen years without major obstruction. Police did not issue demonstration bans for parades in central Seoul locations such as Jongno and Cheonggye Stream. While Protestant groups did attempt to disrupt last year’s festival in the Sinchon neighborhood, police managed the situation with a suitable level of control.

“The same people who opposed Seoul’s human rights charter last year are the ones opposing this year’s Queer Festival,” said Kang Myeong-jin. “It seems like their success in blocking the charter had a great deal of meaning for them.”

By Heo Seung, staff reporter

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