Police Investigate WYD Queer Kiss-In

July 3, 2008

Gay groups say police are unnecessarily scrutinising them over activities planned for Sydney's World Youth Day, as civil libertarians rile at new police powers for this month's week-long event.

Lapsed Catholic Luke Roberts is a homosexual activist and performer who goes by the stage name Pope Alice, a character best described as a celestial being of indeterminate gender.

Along with Pope Benedict, Pope Alice will also be in Sydney during World Youth Day, hosting a "kiss-in" along Oxford Street in Darlinghurst.

Pope Alice will host a queer kiss-in along Sydney's Oxford Street during World Youth Day.
Photo by Luke Roberts

"I want to see Pope Alice express herself as a focal point for anybody - gays, lesbians, transgender, queers, bisexuals, heterosexuals, anyone who has an open mind and wants to say, 'We've had enough of the medieval religions that keep the world backwards,'" Mr Roberts said.

The performer has made no secret of the proposed kiss-in.

"You're having your thing and we are having ours," he said. "This is one of the gay capitals of the world."

Yesterday, it appeared the NSW Police got wind of the plans. Mr Roberts received a call in Brisbane from a detective who identified himself as being from the World Youth Day Investigation Squad. He was then asked a series of questions.

"He wanted to know how long I'd be there, how many people would actually be with me, would there be music, what was the nature of the event," Mr Roberts said.

He says he felt intimidated, despite the fact the policeman was respectful and polite.

"You do feel that you're not sure then whether or not your phones are going to be tapped," he said. "You do feel a little vulnerable."

Annoy pilgrims, face a fine

This week, it was revealed NSW Police had been given the power to arrest anyone who they believe causes annoyance or inconvenience to pilgrims during World Youth Day. Offenders risk fines of up to $5,500.

Protest groups worry about the definition of the word, 'annoying'. They fear it could lead to the confiscation of items such as placards and T-shirts bearing anti-World Youth Day slogans.

The co-convenor of Acceptance, a group for gay and lesbian Catholics that is planning to run a forum on homosexuality to coincide with the event, says he has also received a call from NSW Police.

Paul Harris says the call came after World Youth Day organisers refused to include the forum as part of the week's official festivities.

"Initially, I thought it was the World Youth Day people," he said.

"I thought it was some sort of World Youth Day CSI - some secret police of the Catholic Church were trying to investigate what this gay group were on about. I didn't know who it was really."

Green light for silent protest

A Hunter Valley man, who says he was sexually abused by a local priest, has met the police to discuss another World Youth Day protest planned by a group of sex abuse victims.

Peter Gogarty says the protesters are considering wearing T-shirts saying, 'Pope Benedict say sorry', calling for a papal apology to victims of paedophile priests.

"We're also planning to have a number of timber crosses there but have one of those for every convicted paedophile priest," he said.

"They were fairly accepting of that. As long as we don't go out of our way to disrupt anybody else or engage with anyone else, we shouldn't have too much trouble."

Mr Gogarty says the police suggested the group apply for a permit to stage the protest.

"What they did suggest that we do though is that anything we are proposing to do, such as slogans on a T-shirt or banners or posters or whatever, that we run it past them first so they can check it," he said.

He says the group will work with police to ensure no laws are broken.

A spokesman for NSW Police says the World Youth Day Investigation Squad is not about curtailing the rights of protesters.

He says its its role is to ensure the safety of everyone in the community.

Adapted from an AM report by Michael Edwards and radio news stories.


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