The organiser of the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras has made a call for the lesbian and gay community to support the event in the face of unprecedented attacks from what he describes as “rightwing fundamentalists”.

In a statement, Juan Lerm, who created the annual Knysna-based festival in 2000, said that “this year, as never before, the rightwing fundamentalists have launched attack after attack on the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras…”

He explained that: “From extreme Facebook groups denouncing the mayor for withdrawing a biased and negative survey to “test” the attitude of residents and visitors, to e-mail campaigns led by Errol Naidoo of the Family Policy Institute and petitions by Pastor Jerome Nel (signed by only 300 people), the attacks are relentless.”

“These actions disregard the constitutional rights of every gay citizen of this country,” he added.

Lerm insisted that the e-mail and internet campaigns contain untruths about the parade such as claims that nudity and simulated sex acts form part of the event. He also refuted claims that HIV-positive children who make puppets for the parade were forced to take part.

According to Lerm, the festival generates as much, if not more, income for the region as does the Christmas period. A recent survey initiated by the Knysna Town Council was met with criticism over the biased way in which it was drafted. The town cancelled the poll and said that it would rather conduct one through an independent company later in the year.

Lerm called on the gay community to show its solidarity for the mardi gras by attending in vast numbers, even if only at the parade; to write e-mails in support of the event; to join the Pink Loerie Facebook group; and even to join the negative Facebook group in order to voice a pro-Pink Loerie perspective.

E-mails can be sent to Knysna’s Mayor Eleonor Bouw-Spies and the CEO of Tourism Shaun van Eck, both of whom have reportedly been supportive of the event, as well as to the two men who have headed the campaign against the Pink Loerie festival: Errol Naidoo from the Family Policy Institute and Pastor Jerome Nel.

The 2009 Pink Loerie Mardi Gras takes place from 30 April to 3 May.

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