Jessica Wilkins | Thursday, 24 July 2008 Source: Pink News
Stoke on Trent's third annual Pride march has come under fire from local BNP supporters.
Registering their disgust at the civil rights march on the BNP website, one disgruntled local branded Pride "a disgusting 'thrusting in our faces' of homosexuality, which I consider totally inappropriate."
Stoke on Trent has nine BNP councillors. The party rode a wave of anti-Labour feeling to win votes in Stoke during the 2003 and 2007 elections.
Gay Pride in Staffordshire has been the centre of controversy before.
In 2003 plans to throw the first Pride in Stoke on Trent were abandoned when local residents and the BNP voiced concerns over the march.
The BNP is opposed to the LGBT community having equal rights with heterosexual couples.
Aaron Cogle, who is heavily involved in setting up Stoke Pride, is not phased by the possible BNP presence.
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk he said:
"I think everyone is entitled to equal rights. The fact that the BNP's freedom of speech is protected in this country is wonderful."
The BNP is reported to be planning to be out raising support among local voters on the same day as Stoke Pride, but as far as Mr Cogle is aware, they are not planning a rally.
"We need to show them through education that Pride is a wonderful thing and a celebration of the diversity that makes Stoke a wonderful place.
"Stoke has in the past had a reputation of not being tolerant and most people want to change that image," Mr Cogle said.
In the past the BNP has been open about their homophobic policies.
Richard Barnbrook, a BNP London Assembly member, said in an interview with BBC in April:
"You can be gay behind closed doors, you can be heterosexual behind closed doors, but you don't bring it onto the streets, demanding more rights for it."
In 2006 Staffordshire police service won the title of Britain's most gay friendly employer. The force has 2,309 employees, one in 10 of whom are either lesbian, bisexual or gay.
Stoke Pride has already garnered support from local businesses and £20,000 has been raised to support the event.
In Europe this summer homophobic violence at Pride marches in Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic was perpetrated by neo-Nazi gangs.
In Budapest, Hungary, gangs hurled everything from faeces to petrol bombs and Gay Pride marchers. 45 people were arrested and eight were injured.
Mr Cogle is optimistic Stoke Pride will not face the same problems.
"I think there is a very little chance that we would have those kind of attacks in the UK," he said.
"The police have been very involved in Stoke Pride right from the beginning."
The theme of Stoke's Gay Pride is Clubbers Paradise.
Angie Brown will be performing on the main stage during the day, along with a several drag acts. Scouse star Sonia will be singing in local gay bar, Pink, after 9pm.
Stoke Pride takes place on August 9th Hillcrest St, Hanley from 3pm to 9pm.
Local clubs The Club, Pink and the Three Tuns will open from 9pm until late to continue the festivities.