The City of Sydney’s plan to install rainbow banners at Taylor Square has come under fire from the Pride History Group, who claim the multi-coloured flag doesn’t represent gay and lesbian Sydney.

John Witte, secretary of the history group, believes rainbow flags are most often used by straight businesses trying to attract the pink dollar, and says it’s an American thing.

The group wants council to erect something more permanent and spectacular, such as a sculpture or mural, to commemorate the history of the area. This could include events like the mass arrest of gay and lesbian protesters in 1978.

Is the rainbow flag an appropriate symbol to represent that history? If we’re going to stick something there, let’s make it a bit more spectacular. The money spent on putting the banners there could be spent on commissioning someone to do something outstanding, to come up with an idea which could become a landmark, he said.

The world’s eyes are on Taylor Square during Mardi Gras. We need something a bit more spectacular than two banners.

In a letter to council, Witte wrote that the rainbow flag came to prominence in the US during the 1980s as a representation of gay and lesbian rights.

It arose from a very American-specific political ideology and has only been very partially adopted by Australian and international gay, lesbian and transgender organisations and communities and in no way relates to our heritage of the early Mardi Gras, he said.

A spokesperson for the City of Sydney said council decided in May to install the flags following community interest and community consultation.

The spokesperson said the Pride History Group and New Mardi Gras were both involved in the consultation.

New Mardi Gras suggested incorporating its slogan Our Freedom, Your Freedom onto the banner, which council did, despite the history group being against it.

The flags will be flown at special times throughout the year to acknowledge the history and importance of the area to the gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community, according to the City of Sydney website.

Council is seeking community feedback on the banner design, which is on display at www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Council/OnExhibition/TaylorSquareRainbowBanners.asp

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