A new kind of protest has hit London
It mirrors what's been going on in the US at a much larger scale
Afternoon — here’s what we’ve spied in the capital for the week ending Sunday, February 23, 2023:
📚 A new kind of anti-LGBT+ protest has made its way to London, with protesters clashing outside the Tate Britain on Saturday over a drag queen storytelling event. Inside the Tate, drag queen Aida H Dee read kids books to families. Outside, members of far-right group Patriotic Alternative held signs with slogans like "Leave our kids alone!" and came face to face with counter-protesters organised by Stand Up To Racism.
Yesterday’s clash is a first for the capital, but far from the first time drag story hour events have been met by violence and abuse. In July, an event held by Aida H Dee at a local library in Reading was stormed by 27 protesters. In August, about 50 protestors heckled Aida H Dee’s event in Oxford.
These protests mirror what’s going on in the US at a much larger scale. There were 141 protests and “significant threats” to American drag story events in 2022 alone, often organised by white nationalist and far-right groups like the Proud Boys. In some cases, protestors have shown up armed.
Clearly, drag events for kids have been hijacked by the culture wars. The furore around them is driven by the conspiracist right, who are determined to whip up moral panic around the idea that drag performances are inappropriate for children.
Those behind the events say they are a family-friendly way to introduce kids to LGBT+ culture. Sab Samuel, the performer behind Aida H Dee, has previously told The Guardian that he wants to teach children who might be gay that they can love themselves. “It’s something I didn’t get to do until I was much older, because of the world we live in.”
It’s perhaps surprising that protests against drag have reached London, home to one of the biggest LGBT+ communities in Europe. But if trends in the US are anything to go by, this may be just the start.
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👮 Anyone hoping the sentencing of serial rapist David Carrick on Tuesday would mark an end to the Met’s misconduct crisis was sorely mistaken. This week also saw an officer charged with the rape, an officer charged with rape and three counts of assault and an officer jailed for bounding and gagging a woman. No wonder then that a poll published on Friday found that 51% of Londoners now don’t trust the Met. Pessimism reigns right now, with a leading women’s lawyer telling the Times she’s doubtful things will get better: “Rowley [the Met commissioner] had no choice but to massively deal with the horrors they’ve uncovered in the Met, but whether or not that will continue once the heat is taken off… I don’t know.”
🗳️ The Greens have announced their candidate for London mayor in the 2024 elections, as the party looks to continue building on its gains in the capital. In the last mayoral election the Greens won 7.8% of the vote – not enough to take them into the second round, but their highest share ever. This time round they’ve picked Zoe Garbett, a councillor for Dalston and Hackney, to take on Sadiq Khan. The Conservatives are still yet to announce a candidate.
👨🚒 Tinfoil hats at the ready – the London Fire Brigade is reviewing its ties with Freemasons following union criticism. Sparking the concern was a recent £2.5m donation by the Freemasons of London to pay for equipment as well as the installation of masonic insignia on the side of two fire engines. The Fire Brigades Union has called for the insignia to be removed because of the Freemasons’ secrecy and exclusion of women.
💡 Buildings in the City of London could be required to turn off or dim their lights at night under new plans. The effort to reduce light pollution and save energy would apply to new developments, though existing buildings would be “encouraged” to adopt the policy. The plans are just under consultation for now, until February 17.
💨 Councils bordering London led the charge against the expansion of the ULEZ this week. Authorities including Essex and Buckinghamshire are refusing to allow warning signs and cameras to be placed on their land, in what appears to be the tactic of choice for anti-ULEZ councils inside and outside the capital. Yet while Sadiq Khan and TfL can resort to “direct installation powers” to overrule London boroughs resisting the expansion, they can’t use these powers outside of the Greater London border. Opposition to ULEZ is particularly fierce in the bordering councils because Khan’s scheme to help low income drivers replace their polluting vehicles is for Londoners only, meaning anyone who works in the capital but lives outside can’t apply. Tricky – this week also saw the publication of a major study on how air pollution is putting London teenagers at risk of long-term health problems.
🚨 More details have emerged on how a worker was tragically killed by a pop-up urinal in central London. Kevin Holding, 60, was pronounced dead more than two hours after becoming trapped in the public toilet he was repairing in Cambridge Circus at the end of last month. An inquest into his death heard that although paramedics arrived at 1.05pm, there was a delay in the arrival of a vehicle to help lift the urinal, until about 3.15pm. Westminster council has temporarily shut its other pop-up urinals – intended to discourage street urination – in the wake of the death.
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