September 21, 2019 at 1:52 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Security concerns prompt Montego Bay Pride cancellation
Organizers of Montego Bay Pride in Jamaica have cancelled the event because of security concerns. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson/Montego Bay Pride)

Organizers of a Pride that was to have taken place in the Jamaican resort city of Montego Bay next month say security concerns have prompted them to cancel the event.

A press release that Montego Bay Pride organizers released on Thursday said Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis and St. James Councilor Charles Sinclair “don’t feel that we belong in Jamaica” and have banned them from using a public cultural center.

“I am not opposed if Montego Bay Pride wishes to have an event to promote same-sex marriage, but I believe it should not be held at the Montego Bay Cultural Center,” said Sinclair, according to the Jamaica Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper. “The cultural center is a building under the management of the municipal corporation, which is a government agency.”

“We, as a government agency, must ensure that we uphold the Constitution of Jamaica, and in upholding the Constitution, why would we engage a building controlled by the municipal corporation to be used to hold a function to promote same-sex marriage?” he added. “It is not consistent with the mandate that we have.”

Montego Bay Pride in their press release said “no other venue will rent to us at a reasonable rate” because of Sinclair and Davis’ comments.

“Venues have even cancelled on us,” it reads. “The local police have advised that the hysteria whipped up against LGBT Jamaicans by the mayor and the councilor is so violent right now that the police can’t provide security for our Walk for Rights without extraordinary measures and expense.”

Upwards of 3,000 people were expected to attend this year’s Montego Bay Pride that was scheduled to take place from Oct. 13-20. The first Montego Bay Pride took place five years ago.

Organizers in their press release say they will “now be pursuing legal action for the breaches of our constitutional rights, including the rights to freedom of expression as well as assembly and association that have been directly curtailed by Mayor Davis and Councilor Sinclair’s dangerous and reckless words and actions.”

“Shame on the mayor and Councilor Sinclair who have brought international shame on Montego Bay and Jamaica,” reads the press release.

Jamaica is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remain commonplace in the English-speaking Caribbean country.

Jamaica’s first Pride event took place in Kingston, the country’s capital, in 2015.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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