WHEN the first Wokingham Pride event takes place, the leader of the borough council has pledged to attend the march to show his support.
Cllr John Halsall was answering a question about Wokingham Borough Council’s support for the LBGTQ+ initiative, which has had to curtailed due to the coronavrius pandemic.
At a virtual meeting of the council, held on Tuesday, June 16, resident Lizzie Bishop wanted an update on the promise Cllr Halsall made last year to support an LGBT pride event in the borough.
She asked: “When the rainbow flag was flown last year, many residents and businesses in the town centre responded with enthusiasm, and with their own gestures of support. Even in the current very difficult circumstances, we are hoping to build on this in 2020. During the week leading up to 11th July 2020, we are hoping that residents will look to find ways of building greater mutual understanding, respect for differences, and friendship between residents.
“I am aware that no Council funding is available, and that all events must be safe, but in this spirit of building understanding, respect and friendship, could you please tell us what support the Council will be giving to Wokingham Pride in 2020?”
Cllr Halsall affirmed his backing, saying: “I strongly believe that we should all do what we can to understand and respect our differences and through this we can forge stronger, safer and collective communities working for each other and supporting each other.
“This not only applies to the LGBT campaign for equality but every part of our community including the BAME community. Wokingham Borough Council’s DNA is hard-wired to treat everyone equitably, fairly and without discrimination.
“We, with our partners such as the BME Forum, recognise that we can do better; we are committed to doing so.”
However, he warned that the council had to withdraw its support for the BlackLivesMatter movement over concerns that it was becoming an “anti-police message” in the United States.
“The Council should not be a political football or used inadvertently or advertently for political motives,” he explained. “While this may or may not be appropriate there we cannot associate ourselves with such a message in Wokingham.”
Returning to Wokingham Pride, Cllr Halsall repeated his affirmation of support: “I welcome playing my part in working with the LGBT community, to ensure that all human beings should be able to have the same opportunities and be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race, sexual orientation or colour of skin.”
He added: “I can confirm the Council will be raising the flag in support and publicising it on our Website. I will also be wearing the badge, whatever that might be, to show my personal support and will be present at the march, assuming I can be, or clapping from the sidelines in whatever way is permissible under the social distancing guidelines in place at the time or wherever I can be of support.
“I think at a time when we have all had a somewhat restricted existence, such a march or festival could be fun and bring colour to the lives of our residents.”
Ms Bishop then asked if the council could support with publicising the events, and having the library share “practical messages to educate on LBGTQ+ issues”.
Cllr Halsall said: “We are committed to equality, I will do what I can to foster that.”