Following their recent failed attempt to ban police from marching in the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, the people behind Pride In Protest have scheduled a controversial march down Oxford Street on the same day as the annual Mardi Gras Parade.
Scheduled for March 6, 2021, the Mardi Gras parade was forced to relocate from its traditional route along Oxford Street because of COVID-19 regulations. The annual event usually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors which would have contravened government restrictions. Instead, this year’s event will be held in the Sydney Cricket Ground before a crowd of 46,000 people.
Billed as the Mardi Gras March, the organisers have vowed to take the event ‘back to its roots’. In addition to Pride In Protest, the competing event will also be hosted by LGBTQI Rights Australia, DIY Rainbow, Community Action For Rainbow Rights, and NSW Community Advocates For Prisoners (NSWCAP).
“What [we] would like to see is a march of protest to fight against transphobia and the harmful ‘Religious Freedoms Bill’, and other harmful policies for our people” said NSWCAP about the Pride march on Oxford street. NSWCAP is a transgender and gender-diverse prisoner advocacy service which provides legal, health, transportation, and housing facilities for those in custody and post-release.
“[There has been] a massive growth in our support over the years… Our overall vote has almost tripled in quantity from the beginning and will only continue to grow,” wrote Pride In Protest on their Facebook page on December 9, 2020. “This is another sign that it is a question of when – not if – the cops are forced out of our communities.
“[Our] primary concern is that of our community members, particularly the most vulnerable [members], such as sex workers, trans people and prisoners. We put their needs and desires first… [most] people that we engage with and represent are suffering in many different homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic ways,” they added.
The official Mardi Gras organisation said that while they respected Pride In Protest’s right to protest, they would have preferred if the organisers of the March had decided to hold the event on another day. CEO Albert Kruger issued the following statement to the Star Observer:
“We have been made aware that Pride In Protest is planning a rally on Oxford Street on the same day as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. This rally is in no way affiliated with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras nor are we involved in any way.
“The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is a celebration of diversity and inclusion and for many years we have welcomed the involvement of Pride In Protest in our event. We would have preferred that they hold their event on a different date, so it does not divert attention away from the many LGBTQI+ groups hoping to spread a message on that night. However, we respect their right to protest, as we always have done.
“We hope Pride In Protest ensures this event is COVID safe for their patrons and does not detract from the experience and messages of the many LGBTQI+ groups and individuals marching in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade to be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground.”
Whether or not a march down Oxford Street would be plausible is an open question. This week Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has called on the state government to close Oxford Street to traffic so that the world-famous rainbow strip is safe for pedestrians and remains the focal point of Sydney during the Mardi Gras celebrations. Time will tell whether or not the closure of Oxford street would complicate holding a public protest.