A group hoping to return Mardi Gras to its protest roots–while removing police, the Liberal Party, and corporations from the parade–have announced their intention to run for Mardi Gras’ board later this year.
The collective known as Pride in Protest will put their hands up at Mardi Gras’ annual general meeting next month, where Mardi Gras members will be able to elect the board.
In a position statement on Facebook, Pride in Protest have said that if elected they will remove the “violent” NSW and Federal Police and the “homophobic” Liberal Party from the annual parade, and take it back from for-profit organisations “that are taking over”.
Speaking to the Star Observer, spokespeople for Pride in Protest said the group had already liaised with several ’78ers who endorsed their campaign and what they stood for.
“Institutions that cause harm should, as organisations, be removed,” they said.
“LGBTI people who are members of those organisations can march as individuals, with their families, as community members, or in other floats, rather than as active representatives of institutions that perpetuate violence.
“When the presence of harmful, violent institutions makes some members of our community unsafe in community spaces, a political choice has to be made as to whose side we’re on… to stay silent is to side with the powerful.
“We want to see a Mardi Gras that represents every day people, not the interests of the elite, and that is open and and inclusive to the most marginalised in our community.”
Last month, New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller delivered an official apology on behalf of the state’s police force to the ’78ers over the brutality they suffered.
’78ers present were brought to tears by the apology, which came 40 years after the first Mardi Gras ended in police assaulting, jailing, and persecuting those involved in the protest.
And this week, the NSW Legislative Council has moved to establish a parliamentary inquiry into hate crimes committed against LGBTI people between 1970 and 2010.
Despite this, Pride in Protest have said police attacks on the LGBTI community persist, and cited Toronto and London’s decision to ban uniformed officers from marching in Pride as examples to follow.
“The police as an institution is one of the biggest perpetrators of violence against queer people,” the group’s spokespeople said.
“We’ve seen scandal after scandal: a mentally ill man brutalised by police in Victoria, a victim of domestic violence outed to her former husband in Queensland, hundreds of deaths of Aboriginal people in custody, and sloppy investigations into over 30 gay hate crimes here in NSW.
“It’s clear that the role of police in Australia has nothing to do with protecting us, and everything to do with criminalising people based overwhelmingly on race, class, and sexuality, and protecting the elite from protest.”
Pride in Protest are also adamantly against allowing the Liberal Party to march in Mardi Gras’ annual parade.
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire from the LGBTI community for dismissing gay conversion therapy and referring to teachers trained in trans inclusion as “gender whisperers”.
“If the choice is between including the NSW Police or including all of the people they regularly harass, or between including the Liberals or including refugees, the choice is clear,” the spokespeople said.
“Many of us in Pride in Protest are from diverse backgrounds – working class people, immigrants, Aboriginal people, and so on – and as LGBTI people we think we deserve to feel that Mardi Gras represents us.
“At the moment, there is a massive sense of disillusionment and alienation from Mardi Gras for a lot of us, because the festival seems to be run by and for the rich and powerful.”
As part of the group’s position statement, Pride in Protest have called on Mardi Gras to review its corporate relationships with ANZ and Qantas, given the former’s position as a major financier of the fossil fuels industry, and the latter’s “participation in the deportation of refugees”.
The group hope to make Mardi Gras parade floats exclusive to community and not-for-profit entrants, and to eliminate membership fees.
“Mardi Gras can and should be parade, party, and protest,” the spokespeople said.
“[But] Mardi Gras has never stopped being political: its politics have simply changed and become more conservative, and less about liberation and equality.
“We bring a different kind of politics, that actively supports struggles, campaigns, and movements against injustice.”
On the night of the parade and party, the state government relaxed its lockout laws to allow revellers to celebrate through the night, a move spearheaded by Councillor Christine Forster.
Mardi Gras’ Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday 27 October.
Related reading: ‘Why Liberals shouldn’t have marched in Mardi Gras’ and ‘Don’t exclude Liberals from Mardi Gras’.