Nearly a thousand people attended the Reclaim the Right vigil at Harmony Park on Saturday, but police were a no-show.

The crowd waved 1000 pink Australian flags, donated by New Mardi Gras, in the sweltering conditions in support of Craig Gee, Shane Brennen and all the other victims of homophobic violence.

Following the vigil about 400 people marched to Taylor Square waving the pink Australian flags and blowing whistles to the applause of patrons at Oxford St cafés and bars.

Steph Sands, who with Maxi Shield led the vigil, said the chain of people holding hands showed the community was united.

“Seeing the pink flags flying and seeing how they’ve overtaken a lane of Oxford St, we basically reclaimed the streets. That’s exactly what Mardi Gras should be,” Sands said.

The Homotones, Courtney Act and Shauna Jensen provided entertainment on the day.

“We can’t be afraid of helping each other out. I urge you, if any of you or your friends are unfortunate enough to be attacked, report it to the police and demand action is taken,” Jensen said.

“If no action is taken, go to the media and be heard because we deserve the same rights as every other person living in this country.”

Sydney Mayor and MP Clover Moore was among the speakers to draw rousing applause from the crowd.

“Tolerance has been eroded in Australia in the last decade. There’s been a lack of government leadership on equal rights. That inaction has sent a message that homophobia is okay,” Moore said.

Sydney Liberal Councillor Shayne Mallard, ACON president Adrian Lovney and Community Acton Against Homophobia spokeswoman Shelley Dahl also called for wider government acknowledgement of the gay and lesbian community.

“The anti-homophobia campaigns that we were so proud of ran out of momentum two years ago when the then minister for education disowned the program that asked school children to imagine how they would feel growing up straight in a world where everybody else was gay,” Lovney said.

“The changing face of Oxford St was helped by some shocking planning decisions that put great big ugly straight pubs in the middle of gay and lesbian venues.”

Lovney said efforts to keep accurate data on homophobic violence stopped after the Surry Hills command abolished the full-time GLLO.

“Rather than local police doing something they had done in the past and focusing on why violence wasn’t being recorded and increasing efforts to tackle it, instead it started denying there was a problem at all and attacking anyone who suggested there was,” he said.

“When the police response to Craig and Shane became clear we also decided to make a response to the NSW Ombudsman’s office about the response to these issues to get a better focus on the issue,” Lovney told the crowd.

“We talked about doing this a year ago, but we decided to keep working with the local police for a while longer. Clearly this approach has not worked. We are all here today because enough is enough.”

ACON and Moore will be meeting with incoming Regional Commander Catherine Burn, who will sit above Surry Hills Command, in the next few weeks to discuss the breakdown in relations with local command.

Moore, in her capacity as local member, has joined ACON in writing to the NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour asking for the Surry Hills police command to be investigated and for action to be taken.

Included in her letter was a package of 60 letters of representation to the Police Minister asking for greater efforts to combat the violence. She said the wider gay and lesbian community and many local residents felt the police had let them down.

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