Canberra Anti-Safe Schools rally drowned out by pro-LGBTI protesters
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Canberra Anti-Safe Schools rally drowned out by pro-LGBTI protesters

A rally to protest the Safe Schools program in the city on Saturday was effectively drowned out by vocal supporters of the initiative.

The rally was headlined by NSW MP Fred Nile and Lyle Shelton, both conservative Christians.

The rainbow flag flew freely in Civic Square on Saturday.

The rainbow flag flew freely in Civic Square on Saturday.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Roughly equal numbers turned up on both sides of the issue, however there was no doubt over which group was more visible.

As the first speaker took to the microphone outside the Legislative Assembly the Safe Schools proponents took up position in front of the speakers and attempted to block signage with their own.

Protesters on both sides were unwilling to back down.

Protesters on both sides were unwilling to back down.

Photo: Rohan Thomson
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The conservative group disseminated pamphlets bearing slogans like "gender theory is child abuse" and were met with chants of "Safe Schools saves lives" and "shame bigots shame".

Roger Amey, vice-president of the Australian Education Union in the ACT, was in attendance supporting Safe Schools and said it was a program the union supported.

"We've seen too many kids being bullied in schools and we want to stop that," Mr Amey said.

"Safe Schools is about an environment where every child is welcome and supported and feels safe."

Supporters of the Safe Schools program were loud and proud in Civic Square.

Supporters of the Safe Schools program were loud and proud in Civic Square.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

"[The opponents] have a very parochial view and they lack an understanding of what freedom is all about."

This was a sentiment that many of the program's detractors mirrored, suggesting they were not granted their right to express their views freely.

Police were forced to intervene when one man stole a rainbow flag.

Police were forced to intervene when one man stole a rainbow flag.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Many openly criticised the police for allowing protesters to enter the area they said they had a permit to hold the event in.

Tempers flared on several occasions, particularly when one man stole a rainbow flag from someone protesting in front of the guest speakers.

An ACT Policing spokeswoman said officers were in attendance at Civic Square, no arrests were made and the event ended peacefully.

Somewhat ironically the rally took place in view of rainbow flags that Chief Minister Andrew Barr said were raised to emphasise continued support of the LGBTI community.

"By raising rainbow flags in Canberra we are celebrating the territory's diversity and inclusion," Mr Barr said.

"Canberra is home to the highest proportion of same sex couples of any state or territory."

This means that any future events are likely to experience a similar outcome according to Shawn Cady who along with the other pro-Safe Schools campaigners felt the event was a success.

"The LGBTI community has been passive for so long," Mr Cady said.

"Maybe that needs to stop because we're getting walked all over."

"Safe Schools saves lives and we have so much evidence for that."

Elliot Williams

Elliot Williams is a reporter for the Canberra Times and the Queanbeyan Age

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