New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has delivered an official apology on behalf of the state’s police force to the ’78ers over the brutality they suffered.

’78ers present were brought to tears by the apology, which comes 40 years after the first Mardi Gras ended in police assaulting, jailing and persecuting those involved in the protest.

’78ers gathered at the Sydney Police Centre on Thursday August 9 to hear Fuller apologise at an official function, recognising the suffering police actions had caused.

Fuller spoke of how the stories ’78ers had shared with him, including in speeches at the function, left him “embarrassed – and not just to be a police officer, but it was much, much broader than that.”

“I thought to myself, ‘Well, what do I say’?” Fuller said, pointing out that he was still rewriting his speech on the way to the event.

“As the Commissioner of Police, I am personally sorry.”

“To the ’78ers, thank you. The movement for equality began with you.”

“As the New South Wales Police Force Commissioner, I am truly sorry for the way that you, and the LGBTQI community, was treated back in ’78, the actions of police – and society – and the laws behind them at the time were wrong.

“They caused a deep and damaging rift between police and in particular decent citizens who just happen to be gay.

“To the LGBTQI community, I’m sorry for our mistakes in the past. We acknowledge the pain and hurt caused by the actions of government agencies driven by the indifference of society.

“But with my personal vow never to take a backwards step, the NSW Police Force has worked extremely hard to mend this relationship over the last few decades.

“I can make you a promise we won’t take a backwards step, that I would much rather step forward in a partnership,” Fuller said in closing.

Fuller’s speech filmed and uploaded to YouTube by William Brougham, and you can watch it below.

Brougham also filmed speeches delivered by ’78ers Peter Murphy, Sandra Banks, Sue Fletcher, Gay Egg and Mark Gillespie.

In her speech, Egg noted the presence of Indigenous 78ers and Bundjalung people who were there that night who came to their aid having heard the ’78ers chants which also protested police violence against Indigenous Australians.

First Mardi Gras Inc., the community assocation for ’78ers, posted on their Facebook page acknowledging the apology.

Sydney’s Fabian LoSchiavo also performed at the event, with those gathered joining together in song.

Brougham posted the lyrics to the song sung by those present:

The Rally and the Mardi Gras
That Saturday their lives did mar
But from arrests and violence came
Determination to Proclaim

So raise the pink triangle gay
The Thin Blue Line is here to say
“We’re sorry for the violence
We’ll live by law and common sense”

Today we see good history made
And Willingness to turn the page
To justice and respectful ways
From ugly homophobic rage

Then raise the pink triangle gay
The Thin Blue line is here to say
“We’re sorry for the violence
We’ll live by law and common sense”

And so with graciousness we hear
Apology and honest tear
Together let us march ahead
To honest talk we now have pled

So raise our pink triangle gay
The thin blue line is here to say
“No more the violence of that day
Together walk to a New Day”

The apology comes after Assistant Commissioner Tony Crandell apologised at the Mardi Gras re-enactment which took place on the event’s anniversary on June 24.

FURTHER READING: ‘WE WERE TRAUMATISED THAT NIGHT’: ’78ERS ON THE FIRST MARDI GRAS PROTEST AND POLICE VIOLENCE

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