THE 20th anniversary of the Tasty nightclub raid will be marked with a celebration of a community who pulled together in the face of a traumatic event.
August 7 will mark two decades since the notorious Victoria Police raid on Tasty, a gay nightclub on Flinders St in Melbourne’s CBD, when hundreds of patrons were publicly strip-searched. In a class action after the 1994 raid millions of dollars were awarded to patrons, a landmark case that led to sweeping reforms in Victoria Police.
The Tasty raid is considered Melbourne’s “Stonewall” by many in terms of its significance.
Campbell has put a call out for anyone who was at the raid to attend a VIP event before the public party, an opportunity to reflect on what happened and how things have changed since then.
“It’s all about being together again and marking the occasion, and giving something back,” he told the Star Observer.
“There is a lot of apathy in this world, and what happened back then, it’s still very important if not more important today… it’s about educating people, it’s about saying, hey, this is what happened and know your rights.”
Campbell said the aftermath of the raid brought out the best in parts of the community and he wanted those people to be celebrated for their contributions.
“We ended up funding a desk at the Also Foundation for about six months after the raid, where people could come and either get counselling or get legal advice about what happened to them that night,” he said.
“There’s a couple of young lawyers who were there that were strip-searched, who manned that desk for months. Those people, I want them to feel like special people.”
Campbell hoped the anniversary would bring some of the people who were in Tasty that night out of the woodwork, and allow them remember what happened with others who were there.
Although Victoria Police paid out millions to Tasty patrons, the amount could have been much higher — many were afraid of being outed if they joined the class action.
“We only know half of them, half of them ran and then hid under a rock somewhere,” Campbell said.
Event organisers also plan to invite Neil Comrie, who was Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police when the raid took place. For Campbell, Comrie’s attendance would be a powerful symbol of reconciliation.
However, friction between Melbourne’s gay community and Victoria Police resurfaced earlier this year around a Melbourne Queer Film Festival screening of The Tasty Bust Reunion, a documentary about the raid.
Victoria Police initially accepted an invitation to participate in a panel discussion after the screening, but days later retracted their acceptance without explanation.
People who were at the Tasty raid in 1994 can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a VIP invitation to the anniversary event, or visit the Tasty Raid 20th Anniversary Facebook page.
(Image: One of the iconic images that circulated mainstream media where patrons of Tasty nightclub were publicly strip searched in the 1994 raid. SOURCE: Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives)