On October 21 an open letter addressed to Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was published by activist group Pride In Protest. The letter asked for the removal of police and corrective services from any future Mardi Gras Parades in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and has been signed by over one-thousand people including artists who have been involved in Mardi Gras such as Nayuka Gorrie, Sally Rugg, Tom Ballard and Montaigne.
“At the last two Mardi Gras AGMs the members voted to not ban the police from the parade, acknowledging that their active involvement in the march is a sign of reconciliation and progress, and for that reason Mardi Gras will continue to welcome their involvement.
“When considering the motions, as with all decisions, the board will be holistically guided by the objectives expressed in Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ Constitution and the values outlined in our Strategic Plan.”
Prior to the AGM, Star Observer also spoke with Keith Quayle, a representative of Pride In Protest who proposed the matter at the AGM. Quayle stated that “I really do believe in the future that we can bring Mardi Gras back to what it originally stood for, for all members of our community.” Quayle subsequently stated that “I think it’s imperative to keep the history and activism going within Mardi Gras.”
One way in which Quayle envisions this activism continuing is through the creation of an activist hub at Mardi Gras. “I would really like to see the creation of an activist hub which fosters the empowerment and mentorship of young LGBTQI people by older LGBTQI community members like the 78ers.”
Quayle also stated that “I would like to add a section after 2.1 (of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Constitution) that there are no uniforms allowed in the parade.”
“To the LGBTQI community, I’m sorry for our mistakes in the past. We acknowledge the pain and hurt caused by the actions of government agencies driven by the indifference of society.
“But with my personal vow never to take a backwards step, the NSW Police Force has worked extremely hard to mend this relationship over the last few decades.
“I can make you a promise we won’t take a backwards step, that I would much rather step forward in a partnership,” Fuller’s apology stated.
QNews has also reported that, in regards to the current topic of debate around the inclusion of police and corrective services in Mardi Gras, a spokesperson from the NSW Police has stated that the force “acknowledges our history and therefore the importance of working closely with the community and in participating” in Mardi Gras.
Despite today’s outcome, Quayle has informed Star Observer that this will be an ongoing fight for Pride In Protest, and that they are currently in the process of organising a counter protest. Quayle informed Star Observer that “it’ll either be at the same time or shortly after Mardi Gras” and that “it’s about incorporating the ideas of Mardi Gras with our vision.”