East End Gay Pride march cancelled as a ‘smokescreen’

The controversial East End Gay Pride march next month has been scrapped after claims that the far right English Defence League was using it as a ‘smokescreen’ to attack Muslims.

Organisers yesterday withdrew the event after gay rights campaigners claimed it was being used by the EDL to drive a wedge to drive between gay and Muslim communities in the East End.

The march was canned less than 24 hours after organiser Raymond Berry stepped down on Tuesday night after links to the EDL were highlighted by gay rights campaigners.

Terry Stewart, co-ordinator of OutEast, part of Rainbow Hamlets umbrella organisation of gay groups, said: “I’m not glad any gay pride march is scrapped.

“But we’ve stopped people masquerading under the banner of ‘homophobia’ to set communities apart. That’s why this had to be scrapped.

“The issue was clearly a political decision to defend our whole community.”

He claims the organisers only commented about Muslims and Islam, rather than the ‘broader picture’ of tackling homophobia or hate against any part of the community.

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The march was dreamed up by railway worker Mr Berry in response to homophobic stickers appearing on walls and lampposts declaring parts of the East End a ‘gay free’ zone under Allah.

In a statement on Tuesday the remaining organisers of East End Pride said: “Raymond has had dealings with the EDL, but has assured us he no longer has any part of it.

He attended marches by the EDL and Unite Against Fascists, but found both too extreme for his beliefs.

“None of this information was previously disclosed to the rest of the East End Gay Pride team.

“The remaining members of the East End Gay Pride would like to state for the record that we do not support or condone anything that the EDL stands for.”

But less than 24 hours later the whole event had been called off.

Mr Berry accused his critics of jealousy and “shameful” behaviour. He said: “They’ve made a simple pride event something difficult and unpleasant through sour grapes and jealousy.

The march had been due to take place on April 2.