The NSW police on Saturday arrested and fined four Department of Homo Affairs (DoHA) members who had staged a novel protest against the police contingent at the Sydney Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras parade. 

The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade was replaced this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic by a ticketed event at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

Four members of DoHA, that calls itself a “political satirist group”, dressed as “cricket umpires”, jumped the fence and intercepted the float of the NSW police at the SCG. 

The “umpires” signalled “you’re out” to the Federal and NSW Police and Corrective Services floats. The protestors held a banner that read ‘‘COPS OUT – HOWZAAAT!!! #BLM #’78’’, in reference to theBlack Lives Matter movement and the 78-ers– the original group of LGBT activists who had marched in the first Sydney Mardi Gras on June 24, 1978. 

The incident was cut from SBS’s live broadcast of the event. But phone footage of the live coverage at SCG showed a person, possibly a volunteer, running and taking the banner down. 

Controversy Over Police Participation In Mardi Gras

In a statement, DoHA said: “The umpires detected foul play on the Mardi Gras 2021  field calling the police OUT. Over policing & Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to occur. To date, not a single police officer has been convicted for the death of a First Nations person in their custody”.

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“Our intervention highlights the controversy of uniformed police in the Mardi Gras 2021, particularly in the context of ongoing First Nations resistance, the Bla(c)k Lives Matter movement and ongoing racist, homophobic and transphobic policing”, the group posted on Twitter.

DoHA said there were other protestors in the SCG stands who had held up banners that read: COPS OUT – STOP BLACK DEATHS IN CUSTODY’ and ‘NO PRIDE IN POLICE – STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH OVERPOLICED COMMUNITIES’.  

Last year , the DoHA members had protested in front of the Liberal Party float at the 2020 Mardi Gras. 

 

Arrested and Fined

The NSW police in a statement confirmed the arrest and said that DoHA members had been fined.

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 “Just before 8pm, officers arrested four people within the SCG after they entered the pitch during the parade. They were removed from the premises and received a $165 fine each for climb/jump over fences/seats etc on lands without approval,” the statement said. 

“The main issue for police was preventing anti-social behaviour and ensuring COVID-19 safety protocols were maintained,” Mardi Gras 2021 Operation Commander, Assistant Commissioner Gelina Talbot said.

 “While I’m pleased the majority of those who attended and enjoyed the festivities celebrated responsibly, it is very disappointing one group decided to attempt to disrupt the parade,” added Talbot. 

Pride In Protest, which had organised a Mardi Gras March earlier in the day on Oxford Street, issued a statement in support of DoHA, calling the protest “iconic, camp, and hilarious.”

“It is disgusting that the NSW Police should pinkwash their oppression of First Nations people, and our own community. DoHA’s direct action last night highlighted this hypocrisy,” Pride In Protest said in its statement posted on Facebook

A GoFundMe campaign organised by DoHA to pay off the fines imposed on the protestors raised over $5,600 in a day. 

“Making Mardi Gras political again comes at a cost…The umpires who were arrested have been fined. We are seeking funds to help cover the costs of the action and any potential legal fees and the fines. Any additional funds raised will be redistributed, any money raised to campaigns for Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and prisoner advocacy groups,” the campaign page said. 

(Photos courtesy Facebook page of Pride In Protest).

 

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