Day three of Pride 2016 started with a workshop that addressed the role of religion and its impacts on LGBTI people. The five hour gathering attempted to debunk most of the scriptures that are continuously used in the spread of hate and encouragement of homophobia.
The evening session was the Mr and Miss Pride pageant, that was well attended as hundreds came out to see the community crown a new king and queen. The transgender women looked magnificent in their heels, well done hair and polished nails. The contestants were excited as each had high hopes of taking the crown home and the community was there to cheer them on.
(As earlier published on Kuchu Times)
Suddenly, there were rushed movements as people tried to quickly exit the space. In a few minutes, it was obvious there was Police in our midst and all exits had been blocked. Activists Frank Mugisha, Shawn Mugisha and Pepe Onziema were the first to be bundled up and led out of the premises and straight to the police docks. Later it was established that close to twenty people were arrested during the chaos.
The confused, scared and upset group of about 400 people was swiftly instructed to gather in a small space and everybody ordered to get on the ground. Unfortunately, during the disarray a few people attempted to jump off the balcony and a yet to be indentified young gay man escaped death by a whisker and is currently hospitalized from the severe injuries attained from the fall.
The Police who were in the company of plain clothed officers started pin pointing at whichever two men they saw together and also picked out the transgender individuals. It was a heartbreaking sight as they searched and sexually assaulted transgender persons by touching their genitals and breasts all in an attempt to determine whether they were male or female. Many transwomen threw their wigs away and plucked out their braids to avoid being identified and harassed.
A young transgenderman walking with a white companion were singled out and questioned on whether they were gay; the policeman questioning them shamelessly pointed a gun at them and it took the intervention of a top activist to let the two rejoin the kneeling crowd.
Soon, they started confiscating people’s cameras and phones claiming they did not want people to spread the news on Facebook! The Officer in Charge, a rather arrogant man in demeanor, addressed the now extremely perplexed crowd and informed us were being held for conducting a gay wedding even though the laws of the land were very clear on homosexuality. Our faces fell! It seemed like our ordeal had just began and on bad note. Efforts to correct this information were futile as he shut down everyone who attempted to pass on the right information of what was actually happening.
A short while later, the same officer said he was retaining us for holding an unlawful gathering under the Public Order Management Act. The organizers still tried to inform him that they had attained permission from the Police prior but all their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Clare Byarugaba, a persistent and fearless activist stood up to the intimidation and attempted to talk to the police officers on more than five occasions. Angered by her relentlessness, a female officer led her away and she was put under arrest.
The beatings then started as the officers kicked and whipped people. Media was called and pictures of the attendees taken; all this while with the police forcing them (the attendees) to look into the cameras. The officer once again addressed us and said he would not tolerate this kind of ‘nonsense’ in his division.
After staying in the cold bundled up like criminals for over one and a half hours, we were released with caution that next time would be fatal.
News of the incident was spread through social media as the detainees gave live updates to the world through social media especially twitter and facebook. There has was an outpouring of solidarity messages from across the globe as partners, allies, and world leaders condemned the horrendous acts of the Uganda Police Force