On Saturday, 14thJuly, Bournemouth held a Gay Pride Parade through the centre of town. According to the local paper, thousands of spectators lined the streets to welcome the dozens of floats celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender culture. The parade was led by crews from Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service, joined by members of the police force, fire service and paramedics (http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/15384778.PICTURES__Sea_of_colour_for_Bourne_Free_pride_parade/).
David Skinner is an elderly gentleman who also attended, but in his case to bear witness to the shocking death at the turn of the century of Harry Hammond, a 69 year old, Christian street preacher, who in 2001 was physically attacked at a similar parade, after the sign he was carrying provoked outrage from the crowd. The sign read: ‘Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality. Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord’.” The police response then was to arrest Mr Hammond for incitement of his attackers. At the subsequent trial, he was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine and costs of £650. Shortly afterwards he was hospitalised and died.
Mr Skinner took with him to the parade a large sign proclaiming, “IN MEMORY OF HARRY HAMMOND – died 2001- Defending freedom of speech for Biblical truth….”. Bolted below this, he had a large No Entry sign, superimposed over two men engaged in a sexual act.
Once again this provoked perhaps predictable outrage, and once again the holder of the sign was assaulted, as the placard was wrenched from Mr Skinner’s grip and smashed on the floor. A woman then followed this up by drenching him in some sort of sticky liquid, that he said for a moment he feared was acid.
All this was recorded on film, and the police were called. But even though shown the recording of what had happened, they dismissed all allegations of assault and refused to act. Indeed, they threatened, if he persisted in his complaint, to arrest him under sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act. The clear implication was, therefore, that in the opinion of the police Mr Skinner was at fault and LGBT supporters could do what they wanted – even to the extent of committing a criminal offence.
This is unacceptable. Mr Skinner was peaceably exercising his legal right to freedom of expression. It is not denied that those participating in the parade might be expected to react negatively – but this did not give them the legal right to attack him physically, provoke fear, and destroy his property.
The mandate of the police is to uphold and enforce the law – without partiality – to protect all members of the public, and to preserve the peace. They should have acted to protect Mr Skinner, and have immediately arrested those guilty of assault and criminal damage. As it is, the partisan attitude of officers, both present at the incident and after, is shocking, shameful, and an abuse of justice.
We call for justice to be upheld and applied with equality, for a proper investigation to be made – of both the incident and of the officers called to deal with the offence – and for Mr Skinner’s attackers, clearly identifiable from the several film recordings that were made, to be immediately arrested and charged.
Sign petition here: https://www.citizengo.org/en/signit/164935/view