Earlier this week Seoul police banned this year’s gay pride parade, citing threats from Christian groups who disrupted last year’s parade by lying down in the street. Today the parade’s organizers are vowing to stage their event anyway.
Woo Ji-Young, executive director of the festival’s organising committee, accused the police of caving in to pressure from conservative Christians. “The police should protect the rights of free expression, rather than siding with those trying to suppress it,” Woo told AFP. “The parade will go on whether the police ban it or not,” Woo said, while adding that activists would continue to press for the police decision to be reversed. Violating laws on public rallies can draw a fine of up to two million won ($1,800) or even a jail term of up to two years, but Woo said the organisers were willing to take the risk. Five major Protestant groups, including the Christian Council of Korea (CCK), have urged Seoul to ban the festival in its entirety, arguing that it encourages homosexuality and would contribute to the spread of AIDS. “We will not stand blindly by when our social values are being threatened and the lives of our children are at risk,” they said in a joint statement this week.
Last week members of CCK blockaded the police station in at attempt to stop activists from filing a permit request for the parade. Seoul’s parade launched in 2000 and drew 20,000 attendees last year.