[Newsmaker] Queer festival severely delayed by violent anti-gay protests in Korean port city
The first queer festival held in the South Korean port city of Incheon was severely delayed throughout Saturday, as some 1,000 Christians staged an anti-gay protests on the scene, which led to physical attacks and verbal abuse against LGBT individuals.
In spite of the violent clashes and subsequent delays, the participants of the festival carried on with the event. While many planned events were canceled, the LGBT community persisted with and completed the queer parade, the last program of the festival, at about 9 p.m. -- much later than the schedule they initially planned.
“The parade, which was supposed to be 20 minutes long, ended up taking five hours to finish,” the organizers of the event wrote on Twitter. “(No matter what happens), our existence and our love cannot be denied.”
Anti-gay protesters hold signs at the first edition of queer festival held in Incheon, about 50 km west of Seoul, on Saturday (Yonhap)
According to the police, some 1,000 anti-gay protesters physically blocked some 300 LGBT individuals at the Dongincheon Station North Plaza in Incheon, about 50 kilometers west of Seoul, making them stuck at the corner of the outdoor public property.
Witnesses said those who were stuck could not eat nor go to the bathroom for at least five hours throughout the day. Some participants in the event reported being physically assaulted by the protesters.
A total of three trucks, which carried items to be used during the event, such as musical instruments and costumes, also could not enter the plaza as the protesters blocked their way. The members of the anti-gay rally also deliberately punctured the tires of the vehicles, according to the event organizers.
As a result, the organizers could not set the stage for the planned performances at the plaza, nor were they able to establish some 40 vendors featuring LGBT artists and activist groups, among others.
When the LGBT individuals tried to start their parade, the protesters blocked their way by lying down on the ground. Many of them swore at the pride participants. Some demanded they “leave Incheon for good” and “stop wasting tax money on AIDS treatment,” among others. They also held signs that read, "We protest homosexuality because we love (humanity)."
“Our flags and banners were damaged by anti-gay protesters, and we could not eat nor use the bathroom throughout the entire day,” said Rainbow Mama Papa, a group of parents with LGBT children, in a statement.
“We express our gratitude to those who stayed with us in spite of such violence, especially the festival organizers who made their utmost efforts to ensure our safety. We’ll always be with the LGBT community in future.”
An LGBT Christian individual holds a sign that says "Love is Love" with an illustration of Christ, while a Christian, anti-gay protester holds a sign that says, "I protest homosexuality because I love (humanity)." (Yonhap)
Anti-gay protesters clash with the police as they try to block LGBT Koreans from holding a queer festival in Incheon on Saturday. (Yonhap)
The organizers of the Seoul Queer Culture Festival, on the other hand, accused the police of being complicit with the violence committed by the anti-gay protesters, by asking the LGBT Koreans to end the event early.
“The Korean society will have to acknowledge that (what happened on Saturday) is a form of violence against minorities, not a form of religious activity,” they said in a statement.
Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, but there is currently no regulation outlawing discrimination. Same-sex marriage remains illegal, while a number of sexual minorities have been subject to hate crimes in the past.
Incheon police on Sunday booked eight anti-gay protesters without detention on suspicion of violating the country’s assembly and demonstration act, among other offenses.