• There is a push for NSW police to no longer have a uniformed presence in annual Sydney Mardi Gras parade on Oxford Street in Sydney. (x AAP)Source: x AAP
A motion has been put forward to Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to bar all police floats from future parades in recognition of Aboriginal deaths in custody and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Shahni Wellington

4 Dec 2020 - 1:59 PM  UPDATED 4 Dec 2020 - 1:59 PM

Members of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras will be asked to vote on whether to remove police and corrective services from the annual LGBTQI+ parade. 

It follows an open letter by 'Pride and Protest', an advocacy group calling for the parade to return to the "proud protest roots of Mardi Gras," that garnered more than a thousand signatures.

Now, a motion has been put forward to the group calling for a ban on the NSW Police Force float and the NSW Corrective Services floats in 2021 and into the future.

The motion states it is "in recognition of the ongoing violence perpetrated by Police and corrective services towards First Nations communities."

While the motion calls to ban the police-associated floats, members of the force would still be able to participate in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, out of uniform.

It continues to reference more than 430 Aboriginal deaths in Custody since the 1991 Royal Commission, and the First Nations people, particularly LGBTQI+ who "don't feel safe and feel excluded as a result of Police and protective services participation in the parade."

The annual general meeting will be held on Saturday, December 5 where there will be both a board election and the vote on police involvement.

While a majority could be achieved, the result does not bind the eight-member board that has previously shot down two other motions of the same nature. 

A day without fear

Malyangapa and Barkindji man, Keith Quayle, was first taken into Police custody in 2014.

Now the founder of New South Wales Community Advocates for Prisoners, he has supported the motion being put forward to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and said it is an opportunity to show community concerns are being heard.

"I know, for me when I see the Police, it brings up fear, it brings up past traumas of dealing with racist Police and being profiled in Waterloo, and I know that it's not just personally for me. I know that a lot of First Nations people don't feel safe," Mr Quayle told NITV News.

"On that day [Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade] to feel pride in who you are and not have any fear around about anything on that day, you know, because we live in seeing 364 other days of the year," he said.

Mr Quayle will await the vote from the members to see if words of support for the Black Lives Matter movement will translate into actions.

"I'm very hopeful. I honestly believe that it's not just a hashtag," he said.

"I believe that the BLM movement really has affected First Nations people and particularly, First Nations LGBTQI plus people, and again, especially trans women of colour within our communities."

The board of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras reaffirmed its position that it openly supports and stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a statement responding to the 'Pride in Protest' open letter, the board stated it had no intention of banning the Police floats.

"It is our firm view that excluding groups or individuals who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer or our allies (LGBTIQ+) from Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras events based on their career, association, political affiliation or the banner they wish to march under does not align with our intrinsic, core value of inclusion," the statement read.

"Nor do we believe exclusion is a useful or effective course of action for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to achieve social justice outcomes." 

The member vote will take place on Saturday 5th of December at the annual general meeting.

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