Court dismisses charges against Madden protestors
All charges have been dismissed against two LGBTI rights activists who earlier this year chained themselves to a vehicle dubbed the ‘Hate Truck’ during a protest in Lismore against controversial Christian preacher Peter Madden while on his ‘Queensland Election Prayer Rally Tour’.
Troy Dunn and Amber McBride were charged by police after they were found on the morning of Sunday, March 18 locked to a truck being driven by Madden from Sydney to Brisbane.
A few hours previously while parked in Cathcart Street a number of other Northern Rivers-based activists defaced the truck with glitter, streamers and messages in water-soluble paint calling for “equal rights” and “gay rights”.
Madden’s tour had received plenty of publicity after the failed Christian Democratic Party candidate decided to modify a truck with giant billboards that warned of the “dark side of same-sex marriage” and “homosexual sex ed for your children” alongside an image of a middle-aged man hugging a child.
Dunn and McBride – who is better known as local identity and performer Fanny Waterfalls – both had charges of obstruction against them dismissed when they faced Lismore Court on Monday, October 15 despite pleading guilty.
McBride told SX the magistrate may have decided to have the charges dismissed when he heard her speak about how Madden’s truck conflated homosexuality with paedophilia.
“I’ve worked really hard to reduce homophobia, and in my speech where I talked about that, I think that is where my passion really came out and I think he (the magistrate) heard that.
“The court’s decision outlines that there is freedom of speech,” she said.
“The thing is I’d like to see Peter Madden on trial because I’d love to see the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board step up … We have to stop this type of promotion in public space. These kinds of campaigns are not ok. I don’t even want to think about where something like this could happen again.”
Supporting Dunn and McBride were a vocal group of locals as well as Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell.
Protest organiser Valerie Thompson told SX the action outside the courthouse was indicative of the spirit of the LGBTIQ communities in the state’s Northern Rivers district.
“The most important thing was that two members of our community felt supported because they stood up for us as a community for what they thought was right and against homophobia,” she said.
“When we first saw the truck we just felt despair, disempowerment, disgust and deep offence … But when we came together to protest it turned into a celebration of our community.”
Dowell told SX she was delighted with the decision of the magistrate to have the charges dropped.
“For two young people to have a criminal record would have made their chances at getting employment and other sorts of things really difficult,” she said after the court’s decision.
“I am pleased the magistrate understood why they did what they did and understood their guilty plea for doing things that were out of character but also understood how distressing this truck’s appearance was for the LGBTIQ communities.
“I think they were both able to explain the clear linking of homosexuality with paedophilia that was implied by the messages on the truck. That’s offensive in anyone’s language.”
Photo: Virginia Barratt