Activist group Pride in Protest say they’ll go ahead with an alternate Mardi Gras protest march on Saturday, despite opposition from NSW Police.
This Saturday’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade is a ticketed event at the Sydney Cricket Ground due to COVID-19.
That afternoon, Pride in Protest and other groups are planning their own political protest march along the usual Oxford Street route.
However NSW Police told the group they formally oppose the event, citing COVID-19 health restrictions. Police also flagged potential legal action before Saturday.
But members of Pride in Protest, Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) and others are planning to march anyway.
Pride in Protest spokesperson Toby Walmsley said the current 500-person limit on political gatherings was arbitrary and inconsistent. One thousand have RSVP’d on Facebook so far.
“Despite NSW seeing zero community transmissions in the past 42 days, its longest stretch to date, arbitrary limits on protests remain,” Walmsley said.
An estimated ten thousand people are attending the Mardi Gras parade.
Other indoor events with “more attendees, less social distancing, longer exposure periods, and less ventilation” are also currently permitted, Walmsley said.
“This march has a rigorous and considered COVID-19 safety plan,” he said.
“Thanks to careful planning like this at previous events, there was no transmission of COVID-19 as a result of Australian rallies thus far.”
NSW Police will ‘continue discussions with organisers’
Toby Walmsley urged NSW Police “to practice consistency in policing the public in the context of COVID-19.”
“If non-political public gatherings are allowed to proceed uninterrupted, then so should protests,” he said.
“Homophobia, transphobia, and racism are social diseases that do not wait, and neither can we.”
A NSW Police spokesperson said police would “continue to hold discussions with organisers in an attempt to ensure compliance with current health orders and the safety of all persons”.
NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong also supported the Saturday afternoon march. She urged police to work with organisers to make the event COVID-safe instead of shutting it down.
Leong also called on NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to raise the permitted numbers at protests to 3000, the limit that existed in December.
Pride in Protest targets homophobic and transphobic legislation
Pride in Protest have criticised this year’s paid Mardi Gras parade as “not in the true spirit” of the event.
Since 2018 the group have called for a return to Mardi Gras’ roots as a political protest “fighting systems and structures maintaining injustice.”
As well as LGBTIQ rights, the group also support decriminalisation of sex work, refugee rights and oppose “over-policing” of Black communities and Indigenous deaths in custody.
Pride in Protest have also put forward contentious proposals to ban police from marching in the parade.
Pride in Protest spokesperson Charlie Murphy said “protest is an important part of Mardi Gras historically and today.”
Murphy pointed to One Nation MP Mark Latham’s transphobic NSW legislation as well as the federal Religious Discrimination Bill.
“The bills will make life even harder for LGBTQI people who’ve suffered during the pandemic and economic recession,” Murphy said.
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