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LGBT peace campaigners removed from Pride in Surrey for anti-BAE banners

Anti-BAE placard at Pride in Surrey

LGBT peace campaigners removed from Pride in Surrey for anti-BAE banners

The organisers of Pride in Surrey have had participants removed for objecting to BAE Systems' sponsorship of the event.

The Peace Pledge Union understands that four people who carried anti-BAE banners and leaflets into the event have now all been removed, while BAE's own branding remains on display. Two were told it was because they were "too political" while the other two were told it was "because you're protesting a sponsor and the organisers don't want you here". 

The incident was condemned by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), one of the groups that makes up the No Pride in War campaign, which challenges attempts by arms companies and armed forces to pinkwash their image by claiming to be pro-LGBT. 

The organisers decision to accept BAE as Lead Sponsor of the event triggered outrage when it was announced earlier in the year, with over 5,000 people signing a petition urging them to ditch the partnership. But they refused to budge, with one organiser smearing critics as "idiots" when speaking with local media.

Among those removed today was Tim Rosson, a local gay campaigner and Peace Pledge Union member, who started the petition against BAE's sponsorship.

Speaking after his removal, Tim said, "I'm very disappointed that the organisers of Pride in Surrey decided to have LGBTQ+ people celebrating Pride thrown out, to protect BAE Systems from criticism. Some of us were thrown out for being political - at an event that is a political statement about LGBTQ+ rights, and sanctions the presence of a trade union and a political party. Some were thrown out simply because the sponsor didn't want us there according to security. This calls into question the organiser's statement in Surrey Live, 'This isn't my Pride, it's Surrey's Pride.'"

Responding to the news, PPU member and LGBT activist Rachel Melly said, "Actual LGBTQ+ people have been kicked out of their Pride in order to protect a corporate sponsor from peaceful protest". 

PPU Campaigns Manager Symon Hill, who is bisexual and a regular participant at Pride events said, "This is outrageous. The organisers of Pride in Surrey have urgent questions to answer. The removal of peaceful LGBT people opposed to BAE Systems is an assault on free expression, queer liberation and everything that Pride is supposed to stand for. Is Pride in Surrey a celebration of LGBT human rights or a vehicle for arms dealers to pinkwash their image?"

As well as selling arms around the world, BAE are known particularly for their supply of arms to Saudi Arabia, where LGBT people are routinely imprisoned, tortured and executed. 

The No Pride in War campaign brings together groups including the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM), London Bi Pandas and a number of individual LGBTQ campaigners. 

Today's incident comes only a week after the UK's Bisexual Convention, known as BiCon, voted by 81% to rule out any sponsorship from arms companies or deals with armed forces.