Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras members are to vote on a plan to ban police and prison services from taking part in the parade.
It’s already set to be a very different Mardi Gras in 2021, with coronavirus forcing organizers to change location and crowd management.
But activist group Pride in Protest wants to force a longer-term change in the vote tomorrow (5 December), reports the Australian Associated Press in The Guardian.
The motion calls on Mardi Gras to ban police and associated organisations from having floats in all its future parades.
It states: ‘This is in recognition of the immense violence perpetrated by the police and corrective services towards First Nations communities who are over-policed and over-incarcerated, particularly LGBTQIA+ First Nations people who do not feel safe and are excluded as a result of police and corrective service’s participation in the parade.’
Pride in Protest organizer Bridget Harilaou said: ‘The Black Lives Matter movement has inspired a global responsibility of every human to recognise the damage and the enormous human life cost that comes at the hands of the police.’
The activists hope to persuade Mardi Gras’ members and are trying to get their members elected to the event’s board. However, members voted down similar motions at two previous annual meetings.
Meanwhile the current board has sent a message of support for Black Lives Matter but does not wish to expel the police floats from the parade.
Moreover, the members’ vote may pressure the board to act but the board can choose to ignore the vote if it wishes.
Changes to Mardi Gras 2021
Despite this, Assistant Commissioner Gelina Talbot, who supports LGBT+ officers in New South Wales Police, said the force is still keen to march as it has since 1996.
Talbot said in a statement: ‘We acknowledge our history, and therefore the importance of working closely with the community and in participating in the Mardi Gras Festival, to reduce barriers to reporting crime, and to publicly and proudly state our support for the LGBTIQ community.’
Australian activists are not the only ones to oppose police taking part in Prides. Campaigners in the US, Canada and beyond have often argued against police marching in uniform at LGBT+ events.
In particular the issue has caused years of controversy in Toronto, Canada which has seen bans imposed, then lifted, as activists protested their participation.
Meanwhile, Sydney Mardi Gras has already had to change format for 2021.
The event will still go ahead on Saturday 6 March, despite the coronavirus pandemic. However, organizers have moved it from the usual route of Oxford Street to Sydney Cricket Ground.
Mardi Gras floats and 5,000 marchers will circle the stadium while an audience of 23,000 watches from the stands.
It will be a first for the event, which was able to go ahead earlier this year before the pandemic hit Australia.