LGBTI Elders And Allies Dress As Angels To Protect Teens At LGBTI DanceNo one was going to let protesters ruin this LGBTI formal in Melbourne.

A group of LGBTI ‘elders and allies’ have dressed up as angels to support LGBTI youth attending a formal after there were threats of a protest being held at the event.

The formal for same-sex and gender-diverse youth in Melbourne, hosted by Minus18, made headlines around the country earlier this year when the Stop Safe Schools Coalition attempted to prevent the event by buying out tickets.

The SSSC, which is opposed to the Safe Schools program and created a Facebook page to explain “the danger [the program] represents to all children,” posted a status encouraging its followers to buy tickets to the event in order to stop young people from attending.

“The more tickets sold to us the more youth we protect,” it said.

The plan backfired after social media users started sharing a link to a page where people could donate to the formal and sponsor a ticket for a young LGBTI person. Donations exceeded $25,000 within a few days, which enabled over 500 young people to attend the dance.

However, there were concerns that members of the Stop Safe Schools Coalition would protest and intimidate the attendees of the formal.

“We will be organising a protest against this event, join us in protecting the children,” read a status on the group’s Facebook page.

In response, around 40 people from the LGBTI community, dressed in angel wings and lined the walkway leading to the dance to welcome the 600 attendees.

The counter-protest was organised by Ro Allen, the Victorian Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, who was inspired by the response to protests at Matthew Shepard’s funeral.

Matthew Shepard was a gay American man who was tortured and killed due to his sexuality in 1998. When the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church picketed his funeral, a group of people dressed as angels blocked the protesters from mourners.

Allen recruited people from groups including Trades Hall, Beyond Blue, Vic Bears and Rainbow Families to attend the formal.

While no protestors were present at the event, Allen believes the angels were an important show of solidarity to LGBTI youths who’ve been affected by cuts to the Safe Schools program.

“The young people thought we were a pack of dags,” Allen told Buzzfeed News. “But secretly they were smiling at us.”