In Uganda, the 5th annual gay pride parade was scheduled to take place Saturday. However, police intervention quickly broke up the celebration before the march got underway. After a second failed attempt at holding a pride parade this year, many feel the move signals a crackdown on LGBT spaces in Uganda.
Uganda's LGBT community assembled for their 5th annual pride parade down a nondescript dirt road on the shores of Lake Victoria. It was the second venue of the day, after police turned revelers away from the Entebbe Botanical Gardens, where the parade has traditionally been held.
For one of the parade's dignitaries named "Ms. Pride," the tension made it difficult to celebrate.
“We are under pressure… because we could not do anything. Me, I was expecting to be the Ms. Pride of this year, but I could not even have my crown on my head. And the reasons being because of insecurities and I cannot do anything because of all that.”
However, just as people had begun to relax, two trucks carrying police arrived at the venue. Without explanation they ordered everyone back onto the buses. As the buses pulled away, many voiced their anger.
“No I'm not good at all, we are all Ugandans and we have the right to have this pride. We are mistreated like this! We are all Ugandans we deserve these rights... [They treat us] as if we are not normal,” said one activist.
‘We are here to celebrate pride’
Organizer and activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera was among those who refused to leave the venue.
“Now the police officer is telling us to leave, so I want clarity on what grounds should we leave. We are people who have come to have fun. Until he gives us reasons and any legal offenses that we've committed we aren't going anywhere. Because this is a public park; we are Ugandans and we are here to celebrate pride,” Nabagesera said.
The police eventually towed Nabagesera's car and escorted the buses down the main highway towards Kampala. Many worried they were headed to the police station. One man in a panic jumped out the window of the moving bus. When the convoy stopped, tensions boiled over.
Although police made their presence known they did not interact with those protesting. Soon after, pressure from nearby fruit vendors caused the convoy to start up again and continue a few miles down the road, where police abandoned their escort. Police have not been available for comment.
Tensions over LGBT activities have been high since August when police raided an LGBT event during pride week. The Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo repeatedly warned the LGBT community to cancel all pride events. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and can carry a penalty of up to seven years in prison. However, pride organizers say they will continue fighting for their rights, despite intimidation.