Commonwealth Games row as final part of Queen's Baton Relay met with gay rights protest

The final leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay was met with a gay rights protest ahead of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Birmingham

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Led by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, around 30 demonstrators gathered outside Aston Hall on Thursday.

Mr Tatchell said he was trying to “raise public awareness of homophobia in the Commonwealth” as he joined members of the Out and Proud African LGBTI group, who he said had fled persecution in their home countries.

Protesters wore T-shirts displaying the words “we exist” amid chants of “freedom, equality, homosexuality” as placards which read “abolish anti-LGBT+ laws in the Commonwealth” were displayed.

Mr Tatchell said: “We’re here with LGBT+ people from Commonwealth countries who have fled persecution.

Peter Tatchell led protests on Thursday ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham
Peter Tatchell led protests on Thursday ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham
Mr Tatchell in conversation with a police liaison officer
Mr Tatchell in conversation with a police liaison officer

“Some of these people have been arrested, jailed, tortured and even subjected to attempts to kill them with the sanction of their own Commonwealth countries.

“It is unconscionable – it is in defiance of the Commonwealth charter.”

Mr Tatchell continued: “Our main role today is to raise public awareness of homophobia in the Commonwealth.

“We also want to point out that the Commonwealth Games Federation says that these games are open for everyone – but that’s not true.

“An LGBT+ athlete in a Commonwealth country where homosexuality is against the law would never be selected for their national team no matter how good they were.

“They’d be put in prison instead.”

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is “supremely confident” there will be a legacy from the £778million of taxpayers’ money that has gone into the Games, despite them being held during a cost-of-living crisis.

The Games open on Thursday, with Prince Charles in attendance to represent the Queen.

The outgoing Prime Minister told the Commonwealth Business Forum in the West Midlands city: “You can feel the excitement here in this mighty city of Birmingham because the athletes are already here in their thousands, from 56 countries, 72 nations and territories around the world.”

He added: “Already you can hear the voices on some parts of the media of those who doubt that the whole thing will be worth it.

“And people say, can we afford it? Should we have done it with the pressure on the cost of living? Will there be a legacy from the £778million of taxpayers’ money that has gone into these Games?

“And so right now, I want you to know I am here to tell you that I am supremely confident that the answer to that question is yes. A thousand times, yes. I say so because I remember, almost exactly 10 years ago, an identical moment of nerves just before the beginning of the London 2012 Games.”

Mr Johnson, who was London Mayor at the time of the 2012 Summer Olympics, insisted they “continue even to this day to deliver thousands of jobs, growth, regeneration” in the capital.