By Evan Van Zijl

Mardi Gras has always been a broad tent as it contains all the different sections of our community. We have never been in agreement.

One of the biggest donors to One Nation in the country is a gay man, as are some of the most ardent socialists, and in Mardi Gras, this distinction rises to the top. This AGM is a key expression of this.

As a member of Pride in Protest, I am moving motions about fighting the religious freedoms bill, endorsing an upcoming rally, and supporting transition leave.

Meanwhile, other members are moving motions to expel activists and essentially take me to court for the protest last year.

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‘The Board Decided to Vacate Taylor Square’

This is an appalling echo of my experience with the NSW Police Force last year over the Mardi Gras march on Oxford Street.

The board decided to vacate Taylor Square in favour of walking around in a circle in the Sydney Cricket Ground. Meanwhile, we took to these streets because we believe they should not be surrendered when we have so much to fight for.

NSW Police disagreed. As one of the people on the Notice of Intention for the protest, I was taken to court by the police and threatened with bankruptcy while the board wrung their hands.

Thanks to media attention, legal support from the National Justice Project, and political support from Jenny Leong and several Green, Labor, and independent MPs, we managed to force the Liberal government to grant the first health exemption of its kind for a protest during COVID-19.

The result provided an inspiring blueprint of what a march could be: thousands of people marching with pride for our rights along Oxford Street on our own terms to say no to the religious freedoms bill, police brutality, and mandatory detention of refugees, and yes to trans and sex worker rights.

In the wake of this, a majority of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras board decided to stand down Charlie Murphy and Alex Bouchet in a highly controversial and unconstitutional decision because of their role in the protest.

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‘Obsessive Hatred of the Vision that We Put Forward’

Now right-wing members of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras are moving motions at the upcoming AGM to expel us, to prevent us from discussing things like the religious freedoms bill or over-policing in the future, and likely to take me – as one of the people deemed legally responsible for last year’s protest – to court.

These are just a continuation of an obsessive hatred of the vision that we put forward, and an implied threat to anyone of similar ideas that are all too similar to the actions of the NSW Police Force: don’t criticise the Liberal party or the police, or we’ll shut you down.

But this is not a vision that I, nor anyone else in Pride in Protest, will concede on.

The federal religious freedoms bill, as one example, is a threat to both my future as an educator in training and the job security of our entire community. Meanwhile, the parental rights bill in NSW would force me to out trans kids to their families.

Whether it is the NSW Police Force or Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras trying to take us to court, we will fight these bills just as we will fight for refugee rights, sex worker rights, and against police brutality. There is too much at stake.

This is why I believe people should vote against motions 1 – 5 at the AGM and vote FOR motions 6 – 12. But most importantly, that’s why I think we should all be at the rally on March 5 – our community is worth fighting for.

Evan Van Zijl (they/them) is a unionist, educator, writer, and member of Pride in Protest & CARR.

The Star Observer has reached out to parties involved in the proposed AGM motions and welcomes diverse viewpoints on this important discussion.  

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