Copenhagen | During WorldPride 2021, the Europe Dome was part of the “1:1 Democracy Festival”. With 21 events in the Dome, attended by around 270 people, we had many interesting discussions and important insights. WorldPride 2021 was both a celebration for the LGBTQI+ community and a protest against the dismantling of fundamental rights and democracy in European member states.
LGBTQI-talks at the Meatpacking District The Meatpacking District in Vesterbro, Copenhagen was the location for the Europe Dome during the week of WorldPride. The Meatpacking District was once an industrial center in Copenhagen that secured the meat supply from the countryside to the city from late 1800 up until the 1950s. Over the years the area has gone through a lot of changes as part of the urban renewal process, but the buildings have remained and have since the 1980s been protected as one of the 25 national industrial memorials in Denmark. Today the meatpacking district has become one of Copenhagen’s largest areas for nightlife, it houses restaurants and bars and is used for social and cultural activities and conferences like this year’s WorldPride Human Rights Conference and 1:1 Democracy Festival. The Meatpacking district and the area of Vesterbro is an area with many contrasts, where it was relevant to discuss topics of marginalized groups and minorities, and social inequality and justice like we did in the Dome.
The fight for fundamental rights For 6 days, Nyt Europa and European Public Sphere invited people into the Dome at the 1:1 Democracy Festival. In our events we focused on how the tendency of a shrinking space for civil society in EU member states triggers a rollback of fundamental rights, where minorities are hit first and hardest. We took stock of LGBTQI+ rights in Denmark and Europe and debated how EU institutions, politicians, civil society organizations and citizens can actively work to create inclusive, just, and democratic societies. One discussion round with European activists left us with many concerns about the state of the LGBTQI+-community in Poland and Slovenia. Polish activist Julia Kata from Fundacja Trans-Fuzja talked about how LGBTQI+-people and women are afraid to walk the streets because of the many hate crimes that take place in the country.
In the light of the decline in rights in Slovenia, Lana Gobec from the Slovenian organisation Legebitra demanded that EU funds should be taken from the government and instead diverted to civil society, which is currently lacking the means to create bottom-up pressure and provide the necessary security and support for activists. Marek Azoulay, Danish activist in Nyt Europa Youth and Mino Youth Denmark said as a concluding comment in the discussion round: “It is painful to hear these stories from a neighbouring country like Poland, and I think we need more people to know this. We need our communities to help each other in these struggles. And I also want our foreign ministers to respond to what is happening in our neighbouring countries in Europe.” From Julia and Lana’s stories, we learned that fundamental rights can be taken away from us. The proposal from the participants was that we should never take the rights we have for granted but continue the fight to keep them and at the same time increase support for our European co-union citizens who experience being deprived of rights that their past generations have fought for.
Alliances across movements and borders At another event we heard from Polish activist Kasia Arndt, the leader of the Danish branch of the women’s movement Straik Kobiet, how the LGBTQI+-movement and the women’s movement have united their struggles in Poland, and thus stand stronger together. This argument of uniting movements was supported at another debate, where the Team Leader for Non-Discrimination at EU JUST Nadège Defrère and MEP Kira Peter-Hansen supported this important point, emphasizing that civil society as well as EU institutions should do more to work together against oppressive movements. At these debates, the take-away was that we across minorities, movements and national borders should ally in the struggle to create more inclusive societies. As Kasia Arndt said: “What we see happening in Poland and Hungary is not only against women and LGBT, it’s against democracy and human rights”. And that’s something everyone should fight for.
Throughout the whole week we gathered support-notes for LGBTQI- and human rights activists and collected ideas and visions for the future of Europe from citizens. We ended the week with a big celebration where thousands of people walked the streets of Copenhagen, demanding and celebrating inclusion, diversity, and justice!