Community members and city officials attended the unveiling of The Yellow Line artwork last Friday which paid tribute to the 130 arrests of gay and lesbian rights activists made between September and December 1988.
The artwork is made up of two sentences embedded across the footpath of Salamanca Place which are lit yellow and orange from below.
The sentences read: “Forgive me for not holding you in my arms” and “In the wake of your courage I swim”.
In 1988, the Hobart City Council had called on police to arrest advocates at Salamanca Market who had begun leasing a stall to collect signatures calling on the state Parliament to repeal laws that criminalised homosexuality.
From mid-September that year, the council had banned the stall after they deemed it “offensive” and warned anyone who attempted to set up the stall would be arrested.
The arrests grew as more and more activists attended protests at the market until December 9, 1988 when the council lifted its ban after it was revealed it had no authority to prosecute for trespass.
Charges were swiftly dropped the following week.
In 2008, the Hobart City Council apologised for its actions 20 years before.
Rainbow Communities Tasmania donated $7000 to the project and its spokesperson Julian Punch said the artwork summed up the struggle of LGBTI people who have had to “cross the line” to achieve equality.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome (pictured right), who was one of those 130 arrested, said politicians would have to see that line every day on their way to work, to remind them of the critical role they play in removing barriers of discrimination.
“I see in this artwork the promise that the hard-of-heart will seek forgiveness for what was said and done, and those they hurt shall have the courage to offer it,” he said.
City of Hobart Lord Mayor Alderman Damon Thomas said it stood as a public acknowledgement of the event and the council’s apology 20 years later.
“The artwork symbolises the line around the Market that supporters of the stall would face arrest for crossing, as well as the other lines that GLBTI people and their supporters have been forbidden by law and prejudice to cross,” he said.
Both the apology and the artwork are the first of their kind in Australia.