An exemption granted by NSW Health is now likely to pave the way for Pride In Protest to go ahead with its Mardi Gras March on March 6, 2021. Protests in Sydney had been capped at 500 people, but with Pride In Protest expecting over 900 participants, the Police had taken the matter to the Supreme Court.

The organisers approached NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Thursday afternoon seeking an exemption, which was granted.

As per the exemption granted by the minister the organisers have to ensure that the participants in the Mardi Gras March do not exceed 1,500 persons and they remain in separate groups of 500 persons each without intermingling between the groups.

NSW Health Exemption After Promise of Easier Contact Tracing

“NSW Health has made the exemption after negotiations for the rally to facilitate easier contact tracing,
and exceed the current cap of 500 people at protests. We expect the Supreme Court case will
no longer go ahead on the basis of this exemption,” the organisers said in a press statement, adding, “This is a massive win for not only the right to protest, but for the queer community to say that the fight against transphobia and homophobia cannot wait.”

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The organisers said they will implement measures to ease contract tracing, and pointed out that due to low community transmission, the community can self manage, keeping in mind the public health priorities without requiring police intervention.

The COVID-safe team of the rally have implemented measures to ensure ease of contract tracing. Due to no community transmissions occurring at protests, it is clear that the community has the ability to self manage with public health in mind, free of police intervention.

No Police Presence During Mardi Gras

The organisers have also asked the government to lift the 500 cap at protests. “This health exemption does not simply end the over-policing of Mardi Gras, which we have seen as a continual problem, and is
dangerous to our community as evidenced by the attacks on Jamie Jackson and Brynn Hutchinson at the 2013 Mardi Gras,” Toby Wamsley, one of the organisers said in a statement.

“Pride in Protest does not support police presence during Mardi Gras and will not accept police as the arbiters or either our community, our communities’ health, or how we should fight for our rights.”

“Today the NSW Health Minister has taken action to safeguard the LGBTQI community’s right to be heard. We congratulate Mr Hazzard’s commitment to balancing health and safety risks with the right to protest,” said lawyer George Newhouse from the National Justice Project, who represented the protest organisers in court.

“We hope that this decision by the Health Minister provides a clear indication to the NSW Police that in future cases the freedoms of speech and assembly can be balanced with community health and safety,” added Newhouse.

According to the organisers the exemption came following pressure from the LGBTQI community, NGOs, and the Greens, Labor and Independent MPs.

The Pride In Protest Mardi Gras March is scheduled to be held on March 6. The participants will march from Taylor Square at 2PM, before moving down to Oxford Street, and will conclude at Hyde Park.

Among the demands that will be raised are to kill the transphobic religious freedoms bills and education amendments bill, ending mandatory detention and forced deportations, ending Black deaths in custody and the over policing of Black communities, fully decriminalising sex work, and decriminalising and legalising drug use.

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