Singapore — Three people protesting in support of LGBTQ+ students were arrested outside the Ministry of Education (MOE) building in Buona Vista on Tuesday afternoon (Jan 26).
The trio — Elijah Tay, 19; Lune Loh, 24; and Kokila Annamalai — were seen holding placards outside the building.
According to a Twitter thread by activist Kirsten Han, the protest was against transphobia in the education system.
Ms Han shared that, within minutes of the group of five holding up signs and taking photos at around 5.30 pm, security officers arrived asking them to leave. The group then disbanded, with two of the five leaving.
The five, some of them students, held up signs with slogans such as “#FixSchoolsNotStudents”, “Trans students deserve access to healthcare and support”, “How can we get As when your care for us is an F”, and “Trans students will NOT be erased”.
The protest comes after a recent viral Reddit post of a transgender student alleging discriminatory treatment by her school and the MOE sparked a huge backlash on social media.
A whole bunch of people (I suspect plainclothes police officers?) have arrived — it’s all happened quite quickly! pic.twitter.com/3iRnDhu2em
— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) January 26, 2021
On Twitter, Ms Han also shared a video of who she claimed were plainclothes police officers.
According to the tweets, the authorities attempted to get the group to leave, but their efforts were in vain.
Ms Han wrote: “An officer is talking to them about ‘other avenues’, with the group replying that ‘there have not been other successful avenues’.”
According to Ms Han, things took a turn when an officer said to them: “You’ve had 20 minutes of exposure.” The officer added that they were being given a move-on order, and, if not, he would have them arrested.
The protesters refused and were then arrested, with the entire event unfolding within a span of 30 minutes.
According to a statement by the trio issued earlier to the media, they were there to stage a “peaceful demonstration” and asked for Education Minister Lawrence Wong to end what they perceived as discrimination against LGBTQ+ students at MOE schools.
They also called on Mr Wong to “uphold the fundamental right of all students to an education within a safe and supportive school life”.
The only space in Singapore where people can gather to demonstrate without first obtaining a police permit is Hong Lim Park. However, the park is closed for such activities until further notice because of Covid-19.
Last Friday (Jan 22), the MOE and the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) issued a joint statement on the case. The ministry and institute said that decisions about final medical treatment involving the use of hormonal therapy rest with clinicians and their patients. The MOE also clarified that it was not true it had interfered with the student’s hormonal treatment, and that MOE and schools work closely with and respect the advice given by healthcare professionals.
A person found guilty of taking part in a public assembly without a permit may face a fine of up to S$5,000. /TISG