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Anti-racism events – how do police decide?

racismrun2

On Saturday, some 5,000 participants took part in an anti-racism run at Marina Bay Sands. The race, the second to be held in the last two years, was called “Race Against Racism”.

It was “part of the annual Orange Ribbon Run, the only running event that encourages Singaporeans to stand against racial prejudice”, according to news reports.

The event, organised by OnePeople.Sg, an organisation to promote racial harmony, saw 2,000 students taking part as well.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S Isawaran was the guest of honour at the event. He urged Singaporeans to “always be civil, maintain mutual respect, and be resolute in our stand against any form of prejudice.”

“The many moderate voices amongst us must stand up and be counted, in the real world and in cyberspace, to deter extreme views and to make sure our united stand against racism and prejudices remains resolute," he said.

In 2011, activist group, Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD) applied to hold a similar anti-racism event at Speakers’ Corner on International Human Rights Day.

The application was rejected.

The police did not give a reason for the rejection.

“After a series of email exchanges with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) pertaining to topics, speakers, crowd size and displays, the permit application was rejected without any reason,” SFD said in a statement at the time.

Event at MBS
Event at MBS

In 2013, filmmaker Martyn See wrote to the police to enquire “about the criteria by which the Singapore Police Force approves public assemblies which publicise a cause”, after several other events were allowed to be held while others were not. (See here.)

The police responded to Mr See’s email with an assurance that it had “taken cognizance of your feedback and your feedback has been forwarded to our relevant department.”

No other explanation was given.

On Sunday, the police rejected an application for a permit to hold a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) pride event, also called the Pink Run.

The police said the request was rejected “in the interest of public order, as LGBT advocacy remains "a socially divisive issue".

The police then advised the organisers, “You may wish to consider conducting your event at the Speakers' Corner instead.”