If This Group Gets Its Way, 2019’s Mardi Gras Will Be Cop And Conservative Free

"It is time for us to bring it back to its protest roots."

Pride In Protest holding pro-refugee banners at 2015 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Next year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras could return to its activist roots, with a group hoping to take over the festival board with policies that would see no police or Liberal party presence at the parade — and significantly less corporate involvement.

Pride In Protest will be running candidates for the four open spots on the eight-person board at next month’s annual general meeting (AGM), held on October 27.

“Pride in Protest is happy to announce that we are running for the board of Mardi Gras, because it is time for us to bring it back to its protest roots,” they announced last week on Facebook (via Star Observer).

“It may not be 1978 anymore, but we know that the fight for Queer rights isn’t over. What we have we won because we rioted, we protested, and we campaigned in the community for decades.”

In the post, the activist group outlined a series of policies, ranging from disinviting the Liberal party and No voter Scott Morrison to the parade, to larger pushes to have Mardi Gras endorse pro-Palestine BDS movements.

Speaking to Junkee, candidate Holly Brooke clarified that at the AGM, Pride In Protest will focus on three core policies related to restricting the involvement of police, the Liberal party and corporate partnerships. She said they had the support of several ’78ers, who were present at the first few activations and protests that marked the beginning of Mardi Gras 40 years ago.

“The Liberal Party has a long history of homophobia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has — even just in the past few weeks — said some atrociously homophobic and transphobic things,” Brooke said.

“Conservatives like those in the Liberal Party have slammed Safe Schools, an anti-bullying program that makes queer kids safer; they lock queer refugees up in torture camps offshore or otherwise send them back to countries where they face violence and death for being queer; they’ve set up a inquiry into ‘religious freedom’ to discriminate against queer people, even though it’s still legal for trans people to be fired for their identity.”

Brooke says the move towards disinviting police from the parade is inspired by last year’s pride parades in London and Toronto. Both banned police from marching in-uniform, motivated by past and present acts of discrimination and violence against the LGBTIQ community. Of course, individual police officers or Liberal party members would be able to participate in the parade, just in a non-related float.

“If the choice is between including the NSW Police or including all of the people they regularly harass; between including the Liberals or including refugees; the choice to us is clear.”

Thirdly, Pride In Protest hope to de-centre corporate involvement above grassroots involvement, citing how this year the Teachers’ Federation float was almost excluded from the parade due to a “lack of space”. In particular, it wants to re-examine Mardi Gras’ relationships with high profile corporate sponsors.

The group has not formally run for the board in previous years, but in 2016 they publicly supported James Brechney’s successful board candidacy. In 2016, Brechney proposed a motion to disinvite then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from the parade, which passed but was not put into effect by the board.

In its current state, it’s estimated the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras creates $30 million annually in tourism revenue. When contacted by Junkee for comment on Pride In Protests’ policies, current board members declined to comment, though Mardi Gras offered a statement:

“Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras at its core is about inclusion and equality. The current board and management have delivered an outstanding 40th anniversary season which has seen LGBTQI people from all walks of life come together to celebrate and share.

“The AGM on Saturday 27 October gives our members the opportunity to elect a board that will continue to build on the successful achievements of Mardi Gras. Each candidate brings different experiences and values, and we encourage people to reflect on who would be best suited to lead Mardi Gras into an exciting new time.”

Feature image via Catherine Bouris.