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      PRESS RELEASE December 15, 2008

      Remove Laws that encourage homophobia and hate crimes!

      Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) disagrees with the recent decision by NSW Supreme Court Justice David Kirby to hand down a reduced charge to the teenager who perpetrated the hate-murder of Gerard Fleming at a toilet block in Narrabeen last year.

      CAAH believes the killing of Gerard Fleming was a homophobic act, and the decision by Justice David Kirby shows we have a long way to go to remove bigotry in the justice system.

      According to media reports, Fleming was known to have frequented ‘beats’ in the Northern beaches area before he was murdered on June 16, 2007. On the night of the murder, Fleming met a young man at a park in Narrabeen. They shared beers together while sheltering from the rain at the toilet block. Fleming emerged from one of the toilet cubicles with his trousers down, and made moves to hug the young man. He also joked he wanted to give his new friend a “wedgie.”

      The 16 year old youth was carrying a knife and stabbed Fleming twice, then disposed of his knife and ran away from the scene. Gerard Fleming was found bleeding after calling for help at a nearby bus shelter, and an ambulance was called. Fleming was able to give details of the incident and the name of his attacker to an ambulance paramedic, and died shortly after as a result of his wounds.

      “Gerard Fleming has been described as a ‘gentle, childlike man’, who was living with Aspergers Syndrome,” noted Chris Mansergh , CAAH spokesperson. “Fleming made an unwanted pass at the young man who then stabbed him, ‘inflicting a fatal wound to the heart’. Why was this young man carrying a knife? Why didn’t he just walk away?,” said Mansergh.

      “This area was a known gay haunt, and the stabbing of Fleming was clearly a homophobic act in response to the pass made by him”, said Mansergh. “These senseless hate-crimes occur as a result of discriminatory laws and stigma attached to men who frequent ‘cruising’ areas. The justice system should be sending a message to society that these acts of homophobia will not be tolerated – not reinforcing bigotry and encouraging homophobia by condoning hate-crimes”, said Mansergh .”This homophobic decision by Justice David Kirby is a setback for ‘the struggle for equality’ and undermines the safety of members of the LGBTI Community”, noted Mansergh.

      “CAAH’s deepest sympathies and best wishes go out to Gerard’s family and friends,” concluded Mansergh.

      CAAH is demanding the abolition of section 23 of the NSW Crimes Act which allows ‘homosexual advance defense’ (HAD) to form the basis of a defense of provocation. CAAH is also demanding the removal of laws that discriminate against men at ‘cruising’ areas across NSW and increase stigma of beat users.

      CAAH has initiated The Sydney Beat Project to address the increase in harassment of men at beats by NSW Police, and campaigning for legislative change to protect the community from the enforcement of discriminatory laws. Further information can be found at: www.beatproject.org.au

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      PRESS RELEASE November 24, 2008

      Community Action Against Homophobia has received criticism of our campaign against police harassment of men in Sydney beats. Those opposed say CAAH is attracting homophobic attacks of beat users through “outing” beats and police harassment therein. Some say beat sex is disrespectful and a throwback to a criminalized yesteryear. We should just move on, and police presence is helpful, not harassing.

      Firstly, any homophobic attack of men in parks is not the fault of CAAH ‘outing’ a park. It’s the fault of the attackers emboldened by homophobic laws from governments, statements from right-wing shock-jocks, conservative religious leaders and other “leaders” of our community.

      Secondly, the tactic of concealing ourselves never got us anywhere. Bigoted ideas and violence can’t be fought by hiding. Remaining closeted about what is a commonplace sexual experience for men who have sex with men, stigmatises reality for our community. Beat sex amongst gay/bi-sexual and ‘straight’ men, is quite common. The reasons for it are varied.

      A September 2008 English report Guidance on Policing Public Sex Environments (PSE’s) notes “There have been numerous academic surveys that have attempted to rationalize the use of PSEs with no definitive answer being found. Some conclude that the anonymity of the sexual encounter is a motivation, others the risk element plays a key part. For others, personal circumstance may dictate a need for secrecy which a PSE may provide.”

      Being intimidated by police in beats is scary for men and can lead to suicide, notes the same report. “The impact of enforcement can also be severe and rarely resolves the community problems associated with the existence of a PSE. Its impact can be extreme and can include humiliation, breakdown of relationships and the ‘outing’ of men living in an opposite sex relationship being perceived as ‘gay. Acts of suicide and self-harm by persons who may have been arrested, charged or come into contact with the police in such a situation has happened in various parts of the country.”

      Decriminalising public sex at night is the way to counter homophobic attacks at parks. Police in Amsterdam, where park sex at night is being decriminalised, agree. The Dutch police’s National Diversity Expertise Center says “cruising” gays in public parks should be tolerated in order to protect homosexuals from queer bashers. Regulations alongside the decriminalization include no used condoms to be left in the area and noise kept to a minimum.

      In NSW being caught having sex in a park in the dead of night under the cover of bushes is technically illegal under a Summary Offences Act ‘Obscene Exposure’. However, Wayne Morgan, law professor at Australian National University says prosecutions against men rarely take place. Morgan, on Radio 2ser The Wire said on November 11 “There is a fair bit of information from all around the country…that police harass men at beats, with police turning the lights of their cars, some times taking names and addresses of people and threaten to prosecute.” But Morgan noted “it is rare these days that prosecutions actually take place.”

      More police raids against men in parks took place last weekend. We call on the community to support CAAHs campaign to end police harassment of men at NSW beats. We call on the community to support our campaign to decriminalise public sex in parks at night.

      CAAH is encouraging supporters to attend a vigil against police harassment on Saturday November 29th from 9pm till early at SPAIDS Memorial Grove in Sydney Park.

      Email sydneybeatproject@gmail.com or call Rachel Evans on 0403 798 420
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      PRESS RELEASE November 10, 2008

      New South Wales Police Hunting Gay Men at Beats

      Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) is launching a campaign this week in response to harassment and intimidation by NSW police towards gay, transgender, bi-sexual and intersex (GTBI) men at beats across Sydney.

      Beat users have indicated to CAAH that police presence at beats has increased significantly over the last couple of months, and have reported an increase in instances of intimidation and harassment by police towards men at the beat.

      Recent police tactics being used, as reported to CAAH spokesperson Rachel Evans, have included hourly patrols by several police vehicles of beats, covert patrols on foot, police not providing their names when requested, the wrongful use of 28 days ‘move-on’ notices, derogatory personal comments, threats to use pepper spray, use of unnecessary force, arrest without charge and other homophobic behaviour.

      ‘CAAH was horrified to learn of GTBI men being targeted at the beats by NSW police. Beat culture has long been a significant part of our queer history and identity. Beats are important outlets for men who have sex with men (msm) to explore their sexuality in an anonymous way, helping many with the sometimes fraught process of coming out,’ said CAAH spokesperson Rachel Evans.

      Evans noted ‘We are also alarmed of reports that police are using safe sex equipment (condoms and lube) as evidence of intent to engage in public sex, and is concerned that beat users may stop carrying condoms altogether and engage in risky sexual behaviour.’

      In response, CAAH intends to closely monitor instances of police harassment at beats and will develop “Yours Rights” information online for beat users to become better informed of their rights when approached by police, and anonymously report any instances of police harassment and intimidation at beats.

      CAAH also encourages beat users to lodge a complaint with the NSW Ombudsperson and the Anti-Discrimination Board.

      CAAH will also host a series of peaceful gatherings every Saturday night (from 9pm) at the SPAIDS Memorial Grove in Sydney Park in the lead up to World AIDS Day, December 1.

      We invite the GLBTI Community to join us in holding vigils to defend our parks against police intimidation and harassment at Sydney beats, and ‘Reclaim the Space’ for GTBI (msm) men and our community’, concluded CAAH spokesperson Rachel Evans.

      CAAH will be holding vigils to defend a beat from police harassment on the evening of Saturday November 15th and the 29th. Send an email to sydneybeatproject@gmail.com to assist with the vigil.

      Testimonies:

      ‘The Police arrested me one night without charge. They threatened me with pepper spray, handcuffed me, and claimed I was there for sex. They wouldn’t listen when I repeatedly tried to tell them I was there to relax, and insisted a condom and bottle of amyl they found nearby was mine, before stomping on the bottle in front of me. I was afraid of them, and they made a few smartarse and personal insults before letting me go’, Peter, Newtown.

      ‘I overheard a Police Officer call out “Happy Hunting” to another. I was offended that they’re getting their kicks by openly targeting beat users’, Jake, Tempe.

      For further information, please contact Rachel Evans on 0403 798 420