Residents plan East End Gay Pride to combat hate

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A group of friends from east London are to stage the first East End Gay Pride as a response to an anti-gay poster campaign in the area.

Last month, revealed that an anonymous sticker campaign had declared the area a “gay-free zone”.

Now, the group of six friends are arranging a Pride parade for April 2nd and say they want to show they are “here and queer”.

Organiser Raymond Berry, a transport worker who lives in east London, said: “We want to send a message that this is actually a very gay-friendly area. We’re here, we’re queer, so get used to it.”

He and five friends, who all live or work in the area, say they have been going out at weekends to scrape the stickers off walls and lampposts.

Mr Berry, who says the parade is open to everyone, told “This isn’t the kind of Pride parade people are used to. It will just be the march and then the White Swan is putting on music and cabaret so people can have a day of it.

“No disrespect to the big events, but this is the first Pride in a long time that really means something – it’s a direct response to a hate campaign. It’s taking it back to the old days of Pride and that’s the spirit we want everyone to get into.”

The parade has been backed by local police and Tower Hamlets council.

However, the friends have no idea how many participants are expected as “bickering” meant they had to delete their Facebook page for the event.

The source of the anti-gay stickers has not been identified but there has been animosity in the local LGBT community over who is responsible.

Last week, gay journalist and East End resident Johann Hari said the east London gay community was unwilling to blame anti-gay attacks on the high proportion of Muslim residents.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has also drawn attention to anti-gay attacks by Asian youths.

But Jack Gilbert, of LGBT forum Rainbow Hamlets, claimed the stickers, which mention Allah, were probably made by the English Defence League.

Mr Berry said: “We’re not here to discuss who or why – that’s up to the police and local authorities.”

He has emphasised that the parade is non-political and has asked marchers not to bring any political signs or banners.

The group also says it has had to reject requests from organisations such as the English Defence League, the Socialist Workers Party and Unite Against Fascism to “jump on board” with the event.

The march will begin in Shadwell’s King Edward Memorial Park, passing along The Highway and Commercial Road before ending at Poplar Recreational Park.