One of the original Mardi Gras ‘78ers and filmmaker Barbara Karpinski was ejected by police from the Mardi Gras celebration at Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday evening after briefly holding up a handmade poster that included symbols of love and peace. 

Karpinski who identifies as queer and bi-sexual, was still a schoolgirl when she was arrested in the first Mardi Gras. Locked up in a cell with other protesters, she joined the campaign for NSW police to apologise for their violent and intimidating behaviour towards the 1978 Mardi Gras protesters. This was successful and led to an apology in 2016.

‘Lyubov Nyet Wor Putin, Mir Putin’

Karpinski, who herself comes from an Eastern European background, told Star Observer that she was very upset by human rights abuses in Russia and the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

On Saturday, she purchased yellow sheets of paper and blue chalk to create her own Mardi Gras sign which included the Russian words: lyubov nyet wor Putin, mir Putin. These words, which in English mean ‘Love not war Putin, Peace Putin’ were accompanied with hearts (love) and peace symbols. Wearing a t-shirt featuring a news photo of her getting arrested in the first Mardi Gras, Ms Karpinski took the poster with her to the SCG. 

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The parade was already underway when she took her seat in the ‘78ers seating area. She then briefly stood with the poster while a friend took a photo of the poster.

She was approached by a police officer who told her she was not allowed to have “offensive material on a licensed premises.” Karpinski asked, “but who have I offended?”. The policewoman said: “It’s a licensed premise. You are not allowed anything political. It is offensive.” 

Karpinski said she then handed over the poster because she was afraid of the police and it was clear that a decision had been made.

‘She Is Not Allowed Back In’

Mardi Gras 78er Barbara Karpinski was wearing a t-shirt featuring a news photo of her getting arrested in 1978 and holding up an anti-Putin poster at the Sydney Cricket Ground when she was approached by the police during the 44th Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras. Image: Supplied

“My banner was anti-Putin, pro-democracy. It’s not about Ukraine versus Russia. For me, it’s about people resisting oppression. That’s what we did in 1978. It was about the contemporary moment. It was upsetting especially as I had made it myself – not high tech, not a big fancy float, but a personal artwork.”

The police officer then consulted with four other police and then two of them returned and insisted that Ms Karpinksi leave with them. She asked if she could remain and watch the parade but they insisted that she leave with them. She was then ejected from the stadium and as she left heard one police officer say to an usher on the gate, “She is not allowed back in.” 

Karpinski who was wearing bandages on her knees and an arm told the police she was a ‘78er and had a disability. She was left in shorts and had to walk home in the dark without all her belongings which were back in the stand.   

‘Disappointing And Upsetting’

Star Observer has confirmed Ms Karpinski’s account with an observer who witnessed the events. It has also read the Mardi Gras instructions sent to all participants which did not include any direction that political signs are not permitted. Indeed, the official parade contained what the ABC news anchor Juanita Phillips described on Sunday night as political messages with Ukrainian flags. The Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich himself wore a T-Shirt with the words “Kyiv Pride”.

Karpinski told Star Observer, “What happened was very disappointing and upsetting. Apologising in 2016 means little unless it’s a living apology. It’s ironic I was ejected from the ‘78er stand by police in 2022 for my values of resistance to war and exercising my right to protest.

With next year’s World Pride coming up, we can’t have police arresting people for expressing points of view. My experience means there is still a lot of work for police and Mardi Gras to do.”

The Star Observer has sought a response from the NSW Police and will update this story when it is supplied.


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