Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras members have voted to cancel the Mardi Gras Police Accord and scrap controversial “decency checks” at a heated annual general meeting (AGM) at the weekend.
Mardi Gras’s AGM was on Saturday (December 9). As part of the meeting, eleven motions on various topics went to members for a vote.
The Mardi Gras Police Accord was first signed between NSW Police (NSWPF) and the organisation in 2014 after the violent arrest of a paradegoer the year before.
Mardi Gras says the Accord is to “ensure all people attending our events feel safe, protected and are treated fairly.”
But activist group Pride in Protest has been urging Mardi Gras members to vote to scrap the agreement as part of their lobbying against police involvement in the event.
In an AGM motion, Pride in Protest also specifically condemned a provision in the Accord allowing so-called “decency inspections” of paradegoers by police officers.
The Accord itself describes the practice as “visual inspection of those intending to take part in the Parade so as to ensure that public decency is not offended.”
In AGM documents, the Board opposed the motion but clarified, “Through our ongoing relationship with NSWPF, ‘decency checks’ have already been replaced with ‘public nudity checks’, in line with relevant public decency laws.
“The Parade takes place in a public environment, and no special dispensations are granted to NSWPF by the Accord.
“SGLMG… wish to make clear that the Accord with NSWPF applies specifically to the policing of the SGLMG Parade and does not apply to any other SGLMG events.”
The Board also added it “recognises that many members of our communities have experienced, and are aware of ongoing systemic issues within policing.”
Mardi Gras members vote to scrap Police Accord
At the Mardi Gras AGM on Saturday, members approved the motion calling for the cancellation of the Police Accord, and abolish the “decency inspections”.
Pride in Protest spokesperson Riley Brooke said the vote was “a huge step forward” in the group’s campaign against “police violence… historically and to this day”.
A NSW Police spokesperson said it is “dedicated to supporting LGBTIQ communities and takes pride in its role as a community leader for inclusion and diversity”.
“The NSW Police Force works closely with Mardi Gras organisers to ensure the safety and success of its events,” they said.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Mardi Gras organisers.”
The approved motion, and others, will now go to the Board to discuss and decide if they are enacted.
“When considering the motions, as with all decisions, the Board will be holistically guided by the objectives expressed in Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ Constitution and the values outlined in our Strategic Plan,” Mardi Gras said.
Members also voted to lobby MPs to back the New South Wales Equality Bill as well as disinvite any politician who fails to support it from the 2024 parade.
Complaints after ‘aggression’ at Mardi Gras AGM
After the AGM, Mardi Gras put out a statement responding to safety complaints following “disrespectful and aggressive” behaviour at the meeting.
“Our primary mission is to create a safe, welcoming space for dialogue, celebration and advocacy within our communities,” Mardi Gras said.
“While all members are welcome to make their voices heard at the AGM, discussion on a number of motions made by members included abusive language, screaming, aggression and name calling that inhibited a safe environment for discussion.
“Mardi Gras also understands the passion and dedication of our members and the discourse that occurred was an expression of that passion that our members hold.
“During the meeting, it was deemed that it would be more inflammatory to remove members from the meeting, and would ultimately stifle points of difference.
“However, it is apparent that for many other members, the level of aggression is also triggering and frightening.”
The statement confirmed after the AGM, Mardi Gras “received a number of complaints regarding the safety of the AGM relating to the behaviour of some members.”
“Mardi Gras is committed to reviewing the AGM process to ensure the safety of all members in engaging in future discussion.”
For the latest LGBTIQA+ Sister Girl and Brother Boy news, entertainment, community stories in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagra