The group began as part of the ‘DIY Rainbow’ movement started by Sydney gay personality James Brechney in response to the state government’s removal of the Taylor Square rainbow crossing in March.
The conflict started when Newcastle City Council removed several chalk rainbows drawn around the city by LGBTI locals following complaints from residents.
On Wednesday, independent Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy took exception to the group’s chalking of dozens of colourful rainbows and slogans outside Newcastle City Hall, calling the work “graffiti” and telling the group to “stop this nonsense” before calling the police.
The group moved on after speaking with a council compliance officer and the chalk was removed by council cleaners.
In response, the Rainbow Army has planned a demonstration in Newcastle Civic Park across the road from McCloy’s offices in City Hall on Tuesday. The ‘Newcastle Equality Stand’ will aim to “chalk-bomb” the park with rainbow crossings and will feature shows from local drag performers.
Rainbow Army spokesman David Mcevoy said McCloy was in the wrong and that he hoped the protest would “give him hell”.
“We’ve been given the all-clear to use the park, which is pissing McCloy off but no one seems to care. The support we’ve gotten has been amazing, especially in a town like Newcastle – we’ve had youth groups out all day chalking in the park and no one’s been stopping them,” Mcevoy said.
In a statement released prior to the demonstration the group claim McCloy “exceeded the extent of the role of his office” and “did not act lawfully or honestly” in ordering the rainbow’s removal, while accusing Newcastle City Council of violating the right to free speech.
The group has found an ally in neighbouring Lake Macquarie Council, whose mayor, Labor Councillor Jodie Harrison, has thrown her support behind them.
“As long as it’s not offensive, there’s no reason to remove it. I used to mark out my hopscotch squares in coloured chalk,” Harrison said.
A spokeswoman from McCloy’s office said that while the Lord Mayor was fully supportive of marriage equality, the rainbow outside City Hall had been removed because it was a commercial space that people paid to use.