YOU couldn’t have scripted what happened at the Mardi Gras Parade last weekend. The irony of it all is just too real.
Mardi Gras has since stated it was responding to concerns raised by the police, with riot police reportedly following the NPID float for hours. A compromise was made that saw NPID shifted away from the Rainbow Labor float.
A rather tense moment (pictured above) saw parade producer Anthony Russell confronting NPID organiser Ed McMahon in a video that has now gone viral:
“If I bring Bill Shorten out here now and one of you people say something to him, you are not in the fucking parade. Do you understand that?
“So have a chat to your people, you talk to your people right now, OK. You’ve got one more chance. If you don’t, if you can’t act like a normal human being – all in the parade together – then you’re out.”
The irony is stunning.
These actions occurred only just days after celebrations as NSW Parliament, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the NSW Police formally apologised to those known as the 78ers — the original participants of the very first Mardi Gras who endured police brutality, mistreatment and arrested. Mardi Gras organisers also publicly celebrate the 78ers and the impact they’ve had on our right to protest:
“The protracted court cases for the arrestees and ongoing protests served to engage a huge number of additional people in the cause of gay rights – galvanising the movement for gay law reform and the right for the community to protest in the street.”
While you may not think it is the same, the links between these two groups are extremely strong. Just as the 78ers were fighting against the oppression of the state and the police, so were NPID. Recent evidence has highlighted the plight of LGBTI asylum seekers in detention, people who have been locked away indefinitely solely for seeking protection from oppressive regimes.
The ALP is just as culpable in this imprisonment as the Coalition Government. It was the Labor Party who introduced PNG Solution while they were in power, sending LGBTI asylum seekers to a country that imprisons people for being gay. Since entering opposition the party has been virtually silent as the government has increased punishment towards asylum seekers.
And yet, just a week after the first apology to the 78ers, Mardi Gras appeared to be working with the police to actively shut down those who were exercising their right to protest in the street.
Let’s be clear: there is no evidence that NPID were a physical threat to Rainbow Labor. Their crime seems to be chanting. Their crime was exercising their right to protest in the street. The very right to protest that Mardi Gras claims to celebrate.
However, it seems that celebration means nothing. I’m not surprised by the police behaviour in this matter. Despite claims to the contrary the police have never been supporters of Mardi Gras. It was only a few years ago that shocking footage of police brutality after the 2013 parade was released to the public and each year the police still roll out their “decency inspectors”, controlling what revellers can and can’t wear at the festivities.
What is disappointing is the role Mardi Gras officials have played this year. Instead of siding with the protestors, Mardi Gras has now silenced people who were standing up for the rights of marginalised LGBTI people. They used the very structures that have committed untold violence against us for decades in order to silence those who made their party a little uncomfortable.
And why? So they could appease the leader of a party who supports the imprisonment of innocent queers on prison islands.
In this, of all years, I would have thought Mardi Gras would have been able to look and reflect on its history. They may have been able to actively celebrate the right for LGBTI people to protest. They may have encouraged it. But apparently not. And what a shameful display it was.