Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras members are preparing to vote on a contentious proposal to ban police and corrective services officers from the 2021 parade.
The development is the latest in an ongoing stoush over the political direction of Australia’s most high-profile pride event.
The motion has been put forward by Pride in Protest, an activist group fighting for the parade to return to its protest roots.
“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,” Pride in Protest organiser Bridget Harilaou said.
The vote, at Saturday’s Mardi Gras annual meeting, will call on police organisations and associated groups to be barred from having floats in all future parades.
“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,” the motion says.
The Mardi Gras board said that excluding “groups or individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer or our allies 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”.
Similar motions were outvoted at two previous annual meetings.
In 2019, Pride in Protest succeeded in electing a representative, Charlie Murphy, to the eight-member board.
The group has four candidates running on Saturday, including Bridget Harilaou, who uses Mx rather than Mr or Ms.
The current board opposes all the motions submitted by Pride in Protest to the 2020 annual meeting.
In late October, the group published an open letter asking the board to “reconsider the participation” of police and corrective services officers in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
More than 1000 people signed, including performers Tom Ballard, Montaigne and Brendan Maclean.
Several signatories have performed or spoken at official Mardi Gras events.
In a response published on Thursday, the Mardi Gras board expressed support for the BLM movement but declined to expel police floats from the parade.
Even if the Pride in Protest motion garnered a majority of votes, it would not bind the board.
But Mx Harilaou said it would “reflect really poorly” on the organisation if it defied a majority of members.
Pride in Protest has also put forward formally disinviting Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian from the 2021 parade.
They also want Mardi Gras to support defunding the police and abolishing prisons, in line with the US BLM movement.
NSW Police corporate sponsor for sexuality, gender diversity and intersex, Assistant Commissioner Gelina Talbot, said the force was committed to continuing to march, as it had since 1996.
Marching demonstrated the force’s support for its LGBTIQ employees and the state’s broader LGBTIQ community, she said.
“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,” Ms Talbot said.
Involvement in the festival also built visibility for a liaison program between the police and the LGBTIQ community, which helped police address crime experienced by that community, she said.
Because of COVID-19, the 2021 Mardi Gras Parade has been moved to the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Some 5000 people are expected to take part as 23,000 watch the March 6 event from the stands.