Michele Bauer, CEO Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
“The Mardi Gras Parade is a wonderful platform to be able to draw attention to a range of important issues, as well as a way for people to pledge their support to the LGBTQI community. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade run order was devised and set five weeks out from Saturday’s Parade and, as in previous years, people from all walks of life came together to walk in support of our community.
Inside the marshalling area, just before the Parade began, it was reported to parade officials by NSW Police that there was an unacceptable level of harassment and offensive comments from the No Pride in Detention float members being directed towards members of the Rainbow Labor float, including leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten and deputy leader of the opposition, Tanya Plibersek.
Police requested parade officials ensure the safety of the Rainbow Labor float participants during the parade. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras strongly believes the No Pride in Detention Float has a very important message to send, and without wanting the police to intervene and remove the float from the parade, a last minute decision to reshuffle the run order was made. At the time, this was considered the best course of action to ensure both parties were able to march and spread their individual messages to the world while maintaining safety for all marchers.
The production and ordering of the Parade is a highly complex logistical feat. The level of harassment reported to parade officials, just prior to 12,500 people commencing to march along Oxford Street, was at a time when tensions were understandably high. Many people had worked for many months on the co-ordination of the 178 floats in the parade, not to mention the work of thousands of parade participants. It was the wish of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to not let the hard work of all those involved go to waste and as such re-ordered the Parade.
Our Parade Producer, just minutes before the parade was set to begin, was acting on reports by NSW Police that the actions of No Pride in Detention had reached an unacceptable level of harassment and offensive behaviour..
Superintendent Tony Crandell, who was part of the team of senior police working on Saturday night's operation (Operation Hampstead), and is also NSWPF's Corporate Spokesperson on Sexuality and Gender Diversity has also commented on the incident saying "Before the parade, police received a report of harassing behaviour towards members of the Rainbow Labor float. Police contacted the event organisers to discuss the issue and possible courses of action. The organisers took appropriate action to remedy the issue, and police fully support their decision."
We welcome respectful discussion, argument and difference of opinion. Our community represents every colour of the rainbow, and there are many different people marching in support of different issues, so naturally there will be people that have opposing views participating in the parade. It is for this reason that all float participants are briefed weeks ahead of the Parade and agree to a code of conduct that requires participants not to abuse other marchers.
As CEO of Mardi Gras, I support the action taken by our Parade Producer in his role co-ordinating what is most definitely Australia’s largest street Parade. I also believe that the best possible outcome was achieved in the end. An outcome that ensured no one was silenced, no one was censored and both parties got to march.
The organisation will however conduct an internal investigation in respect to the incident which potentially impacted the safety of parade participants.”