Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras members will vote on a contentious proposal to ban police from future parades at this weekend’s AGM.
Activist group Pride in Protest put forward the motion, one of many up for a vote at the Saturday meeting.
The group emerged in 2018 with a goal of returning Mardi Gras to its “protest roots and fight systems and structures maintaining injustice.”
The motion calls for Mardi Gras to bar police and associated organisations from marching in all future parades, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
“This is in recognition of the immense violence perpetrated by the police and corrective services towards First Nations communities who are over-policed and over-incarcerated,” the motion states.
“LGBTQIA+ First Nations people do not feel safe and are excluded as a result of police and corrective service’s participation in the parade.”
Mardi Gras responds to call for police parade ban
In response, the Mardi Gras board reaffirmed they “stand openly in support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement”.
However they added excluding “groups or individuals who are LGBTIQ+ or our allies from Mardi Gras events based on their career, association, political affiliation or the banner they wish to march under does not align with our intrinsic, core value of inclusion.”
“We acknowledge the historic difficulties between the NSW Police, the LGBTIQ+ community and First Nations people as expressed in the open letter, particularly in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and international events in 2020,” the board wrote in a letter.
“We also acknowledge the significant work the LGBTIQ+ community, the NSW Police and [Mardi Gras] have undertaken to develop stronger relationships with our community.”
They pointed to NSW programs such as the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer (GLLO) program, the 2014 signing of the Mardi Gras Police Accord and the NSW Police Commissioner’s 2018 apology to the 78ers.
Mardi Gras also promised to begin a “transparent consultation” process on the Police Accord.
The response comes after Pride in Protest published an open letter to the board with 1,000 signatures in October.
The letter asks Mardi Gras to “reconsider the participation” of police, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Signatories included Indigenous elders and Mardi Gras performers including Nayuka Gorrie, Montaigne, Sally Rugg, and Tom Ballard.
Pride in Protest has put forward similar motions at two previous AGMs. However members ultimately voted them down.
A NSW Police spokesperson said the force “acknowledges our history and therefore the importance of working closely with the community and in participating” in Mardi Gras.
“[We want] to reduce barriers to reporting crime and to publicly and proudly state our support for the LGBTIQ community,” the spokesperson said.
Pride in Protest slams 2021 parade plans
Last year, Pride in Protest succeeded in electing a representative, Charlie Murphy, to the Mardi Gras board at the AGM.
At Saturday’s meeting the group has another four candidates running for election.
Last month, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras announced the parade won’t go ahead as usual in 2021.
Due to COVID-19, Mardi Gras plan to move the parade to the Sydney Cricket Ground as a ticketed event instead. Twenty-three thousand seated spectators will watch on.
However Pride in Protest slammed the arrangement. They said charging for tickets and the 5000 marcher limit would “disconnect the event even more from the community.”
They said it would lock out low income earners from participating.
Pride in Protest also warned against “prioritising ad space for corporate sponsors and police floats, over community organisations and members”.