Last week, NSW police worked “closer than ever” with organisers of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2021 to ensure that social distancing and other COVID safe practices were adhered to, yet has declined to specify the number of police officers at the event.
“We do not provide specific figures on police numbers involved in operations,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement to the Star Observer. She also claimed that police presence in the rest of the city was no different to any other Saturday night, even in high traffic areas such as Newtown and Oxford Street.
Police attendance at Mardi Gras has come under fire in the last few years, with multiple groups demanding that no police groups should be given an official float in the parade. Those protests have intensified this year after a NSW Police officer was spotted allegedly wearing a far right symbol.
No GLLO Officers Available During DoHA Arrests
This is the moment four cricket umpires intercepted the @nswpolice float at the Sydney Cricket Ground during @sydneymardigras to declare "COPS OUT" in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and all over-policed communities.#MardiGras pic.twitter.com/RQwt5C9DWl
— Department of Homo Affairs (@AffairsHomo) March 8, 2021
Speaking to the Star Observer, the Department of Homo Affairs said they were heavily policed at the venue, with tickets photographed and some being made to show ID. They claimed to have been told they were going to be “closely monitored” and riot police were stationed near where the uniformed attendees were seated before their stunt.
“They were a bit confused. I said it will need to be a GLLO officer and the boss cop said we don’t have any of those here,” relayed Umpire Stonewall, one of the four members of DoHA, who was arrested at the Mardi Gras parade at Sydney Cricket Ground.
NSW Police High Visibility Operation
— NSW Police Force (@nswpolice) March 6, 2021
The NSW Police in a press statement had said it had mounted a “high-visibility operation” for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2021. The police operations covered “Moore Park, Oxford Street, Hyde Park and public transport routes to and from the area” and “involved general duties officers, assisted by specialist units, including the Public Order and Riot Squad, Operations Support Group, Dog and Mounted Unit, PolAir, Licensing Police, Traffic and Highway Patrol Command and Police Transport Command”.
Aside from the arrests of the Department of Homo Affairs members, there were other arrests made that day — a 23 year old woman who allegedly struck a male sergeant in the groin after being escorted from the event, and a 35-year-old man who touched a 17 year old girl inappropriately after requesting to take photos of her. Both these individuals were charged at Surry Hills Police Station. The police on Saturday night also arrested three men aged 29, 23 and 21 who were charged with assaulting two teenage girls at Pirrama Park, Pyrmont.
Meanwhile, the police are looking for a red sedan, whose occupants were allegedly involved in throwing eggs at gay men early Sunday morning, including ABC reporter Mark Reddie. There were reports from other LGBTQI people of being targeted by homophobic hoons with eggs and in one case a bottle.