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September 23, 2011

IconQueer protesters picket European Diversity Awards

Around 50 people demonstrated outside an extravagant awards ceremony in London last night. The event attracted criticism after controversial gay journalist Julie Bindel and several organisations associated with tax-dodging were nominated for awards.

“This charming £2,500+/table event on the 22 September at the Savoy Hotel in London [appears] to be designed so that the super-rich elite can sit around and celebrate the fabulous work some of their favourite companies and people are doing in promoting [...] diversity,” announced activist group Queer Resistance in a public statement.

Many of the guests arrived through a side entrance in order to avoid the protest, which took place in front of the venue.

Julie Bindel was nominated for the Cast Media Group Journalist of the Year award in recognition of her work on the illegal trafficking of sex workers. Protesters argued that she has advocated transphobia in a number of prominent articles published since 2004. Some also highlighted claims that Bindel has distorted trafficking statistics in a number of her articles.

Award organisers Square Peg Media defended Bindel’s nomination. “When considering Ms Bindel’s nomination the judges considered her nomination on the basis of the content of that nomination which was for her work in the field of violence against women,” explained a representative for the company.

“As Ms Bindel has apologised for the offence she caused in her 2004 Guardian article and issued a further statement to us we did not believe that it was appropriate for the EDA organisers to exclude her nomination.”

Further criticism was levelled at corporate nominee Vodafone – alleged to have avoided up to £6 billion in tax – and sponsor United Health Group, who stand to profit from the ongoing NHS reforms.

“I think [these companies] are doing well in terms of their own diversity, but diversity isn’t just internal,” protest organiser Natacha Kennedy told Lesbilicious. “Diversity is about your relationship to the whole community and people you’re responsible to.”

Demonstrators also questioned the nomination of Paul Burston, a journalist who has been accused of Islamopobia.

Similar protests took place outside the Stonewall Awards ceremony in 2008 after Julie Bindel was nominated for the Journalist of the Year award.

The European Diversity Awards were launched this year to “recognise and celebrate those organisations and individuals that have shown innovation, creativity and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion during 2011,” according to event’s official website.

Photo courtesy of Melvyn Altwarg.

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