First Mardi Gras Marchers ‘The 78ers’ To Protest Chechnya

The men and women who protested at the very first Mardi Gras march in Sydney will come together to protest treatment of gay men in the Russian region of Chechnya.

In June 1978, the “78ers” marched through Darlinghurst to call for LGBTI equality, but they were assaulted by police, arrested and outed in the media. The historic march would become the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Now the 78ers will rally outside Sydney’s Russian consulate on Saturday to protest the horrific treatment of gay Chechen men, and the group said all are welcome to join them.

Russian media and human rights groups claim at least 100 men have been detained and violently tortured “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such” in multiple secret prisons in the Russian region of Chechnya, with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov planning to “eliminate” gay people from the region.

“The persecution of LGBTI people in many parts of the world is acute and worsening, despite huge strides elsewhere,” the 78ers said in a statement.

“For those of us who struggled to emerge from our own past homophobic conditions characterizing our lives in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s, we express solidarity with our Chechen brothers and sisters.

“We assert the right for sexual minorities in all parts of the world to live without fear and be free from persecution, intimidation, entrapment, arbitrary arrest, and violence.

“Further we call for the Australian Government to reassert these rights.”

Earlier this month, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government had raised their concern about the reported persecution “directly with the Russian government.”

“We are seeking advice from the Russian government on whether any Australians are involved so that we can offer appropriate consular assistance,” she said.

(Top photo by Hamid Mousa, lower photo by Jeffrey Feng via Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras)

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