The Sydney Cricket Ground has erupted in a pyrotechnics display as Dykes on Bikes and the First Nations marchers kicked off the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.
To the tune of AC/DC’s classic song Thunderstruck, the iconic motorcycle group was met with cheers but behind the scenes there was a last-minute scramble to make sure it went off without a hitch.
Marshals had to rush to reorganise bike routes for the club to avoid a steep decline leading onto the field.
“There was a bit of scrambling but there would be no way we’d not be out there,” Dykes on Bikes president Emily Saunders said.
It is the 33rd year that the group have led the march, but COVID-19 has taken its toll on membership and participation numbers.
“We usually have 150 to 200 bikes for the parade,” Ms Saunders said.
“This year we have 68 bikes.”
Ms Saunders said while numbers were down, enthusiasm remained high.
“I can’t express how much this day means to me and how much this group means to me,” she said.
“They were with me for some of the hardest parts of my life, so to be able to lead them out is everything.”
Outside the stadium, crowds remained positive about the new venue as 36,000 people filed into the seated areas.
They were filtered into the venue in batches to avoid overcrowding and social distancing was observed.
“As long as there’s a queer space for us to celebrate in any form,” Twiggy Styx said.
“I’m excited that there was still the protest down Oxford St and we have this as well,” Lady Fur said.
The First Nations march marked a continuation of the original protest spirit of the parade.
The theme of their group march, Black Lives Matter, was inspired by ongoing protests around police brutality and Indigenous deaths in custody.
“I love being out there representing Aboriginal people, and being a gay Aboriginal person, I love doing anything to show my pride in myself and my community,” Ismail ‘Izzy’ Donovan said.
Marchers held up banners marking the number of Indigenous deaths in custody along with a sequinned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flag.
What a fantastic day!
Thank you all for your support! Today we had a crowd of 3000 strong march and raise their voices for our demands and show their support for the LGBTQIA+ community
Together we stand with pride against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and racism. pic.twitter.com/miRIw3sR21
— Pride in Protest (@prideinprotest) March 6, 2021
A banner was held at the front of the Oxford Street march declaring: “No pride in police, stand in solidarity with overpoliced communities”.
NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong earlier addressed the crowd, expressing her support for trans and sex-worker rights as well as refugee and Indigenous rights.