After surviving coup, Auckland Pride Board chair remains defiant on police uniform ban, corporate backlash

Whether or not police are allowed to march in uniform, there's a sense that the Auckland Pride Parade has become too corporate, Pride Board Chair Cissy Rock told TVNZ1's Breakfast today just hours after a contentious bid to oust the board failed.

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“A grassroots-type parade will happen in 2019,” Cissy Rock says, just hours after a contentious bid to oust the board failed. Source: Breakfast

Many of the event's biggest sponsors have dropped support for the event following the board's decision last month to bar police from marching in uniform. Last night's 325-273 vote to retain the board means retaining the controversial uniform mandate as well.

"I think it will change what the parade looks like, but last night at our meeting even people who were speaking out against the board were saying that the corporate balance had got a little bit out of control," Ms Rock said. "So in a way I think we've got a good clean slate to move forward, and of course we've got our Givealittle page, where we've raised $24K.

"That's a lot of people really getting in behind this idea of a grassroots Pride."

Ms Rock acknowledged that the response to the uniform ban has been more intense than she expected.

"I expected it to have repercussions but I didn't think it was going to be like wildfire through the whole community," she said. "The board listened to our whole community, and we know there's lots of people who really want the police to be marching in uniforms, are really proud of our queer police officers.

"And then there's another group of our community who don't want the police in the parade at all. So this is really about looking at a way forward - what we thought was quite a moderate, symbolic gesture."

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It follows weeks of controversy over plans for next year’s event, after police in uniform were banned from taking part. Source: 1 NEWS

But there wasn't enough compromise on either side of the issue, said rainbow community member Stacey Kerapa, who fought to allow police to march in uniform.

"There could have been a slow, gradual progression towards the removal of the uniform rather than just an instantaneous response from the board," she said, adding that she isn't sure if she will march this year. "In my view, the process wasn't quite complete."

As a Māori trans woman, she said she's been victimised by police herself in the past - "some of that victimisation, yes, by my own fault, others not necessarily". But she now works with police to bridge gaps.

"There's trans, lesbian, bi and gay officers in the force, and part of their pride is actually being an officer first and foremost, other than being a member of GLBTQ+ communities," she said. "That gives them a sense of pride to wear the uniform.

"That gives them the ability to be an officer in this country, whereas previously they weren't allowed to be either GLBTQ+ or an officer - they had to be one or the other on and off the clock."

Ms Rock agreed that a tremendous amount of progress has been made, and that should be celebrated.

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The win comes as hundreds vowed to boycott next year's Pride Parade due to officers being banned from wearing their uniforms while taking part. Source: Breakfast

"We don't want to turn the clock back 35 years, but there are still people who are scared or people who feel that the uniforms are symbolic of the institution of the police," she said. "And it's not OK for us not to listen to those voices - we want to bring everyone with us."

She said she expects to trade some past corporate sponsorships for new faces participating in the parade next year.

"A grass-roots type parade will happen in 2019," she explained. "I don't know what that will look like yet, but I feel really excited by the fact that so many people who haven't been engaged in Pride are saying, 'This is the first Pride I've felt very excited about'.

"So something amazing will happen."