Members of Exeter Food Fight have described being “infuriated” at Exeter Pride’s decision to remove their stall from Northernhay Gardens during the event on Saturday. However, Exeter Pride has claimed that Food Fight did not provide “health and safety details, complete risk assessments, food allergens or details of what they intended to sell or give away.”
Food Fight were at the event, hosted in Northernhay Gardens, to give out free food to passers by from a table they had brought from home. The campaign has been running for several years, and can often be found on Bedford Square on weekends.
“I was infuriated, I thought, what is happening right now? How small of a person to you have to be to do this? Most people supported us, most people thought it was outrageous”
The Exeter student-led group was told to leave by a person identifying themself as the event’s treasurer, purportedly on the grounds that they were harming the profits of traders. They were then approached by event security. Videos posted on Facebook, both live and recorded, depict the extensive argument between them and event volunteers, who asked them to leave as Food Fight had not submitted paperwork prior to Pride.
At one stage the police were called, but this proved inconclusive, with the officer leaving having allegedly told Food Fight they could remain in place should they stop serving food. Despite the group promising to do so, their table and equipment were removed from Northernhay Gardens by Pride security staff and placed outside the grounds of the event where they were told they could continue. In the video, boos from nearby event attendees can be heard as security carried the equipment away from its original spot.
“boos from nearby event attendees can be heard as security carried the equipment away from its original spot”
Since the event, Exeposè sat down with two members of Food Fight, who insisted they “had the right to be there”, but that their removal was not unexpected, saying that they’re “desensitised to these things these days”.
They also stated that Exeter Pride, as a structure, “represent[s] the commodification of Pride” and one of them added: “I was infuriated, I thought, what is happening right now? How small of a person to you have to be to do this? Most people supported us, most people thought it was outrageous”.
Food Fight told Exeposé that they had been at other events in council locations, such as Bedford Square, when events had been going on– adding that “the only difference was that this public event had profit involved”.
In response to the allegations, Exeter Pride told Exeposé that they had been alerted to the presence of Food Fight by “trader complaints”, and pointed out that several requirements of paperwork were laid out by the Council.
Pride claimed that the main reason for their removal was that they had not given advance warning, meaning that they “were not insured for them to be there.” They also pointed out that, with a third of stall space going to charities and non-profit community groups, Food Fight would have been allowed to attend had they “had any contact from them prior to the event.”
“In future years,” they added, “we would love to work with Exeter Food Fight to help highlight issues around homelessness and food poverty, especially given the disproportionate number of the LGBTQIA+ community affected by these issues. Our awareness of these concerns is one of the main reasons that we strive to keep Exeter Pride as a free event.”
“we would love to work with Exeter Food Fight to help highlight issues around homelessness and food poverty”
However, they did also admit that the “potential impact on traders” had been taken into account in the decision to remove them, and that they feel it was unfair on those traders “to allow EFF into the event without an opportunity to explain the ethos of the group to them”.
A separate incident also took place, in which attendees on the march complained about a person holding a sign saying “No to Sharia” and “Allah is gay”.
Exeter Pride told Exeposé that “the safety and inclusion of everyone who comes to Exeter Pride is and remains our utmost priority”, and that once trustees became aware of the person, they attempted to speak to them, only to find that “they didn’t speak English.”
This fact has been disputed by one eyewitness, who told Exeposé that they had uploaded a video showing the offending party to be repeatedly “denying that their sign was racist, and claiming to be a UKIP supporter”
Exeter Pride is an annual event that takes place in the City Centre, with the 2018 version having taken place on Saturday 12 May. The event is organised by a team of volunteers.