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Pride in Protest returns Mardi Gras to its radical roots

On March 6th, thousands will return to Oxford Street in protest

Source: Fairfax.

Thousands of people are taking to the streets of Darlinghurst on the 6th of March for Pride in Protest’s Mardi Gras March. 

Pride in Protest is a radical queer collective who campaign for a Mardi Gras with “No Cops, No Corporations and No Conservatives.” The group have organised a counter-protest to the official Mardi Gras Parade. It has several key demands including killing the religious freedoms bill, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and decriminalising sex work. 

“The event on the 6th will be really big and colourful,” says Pride in Protest member Charlie Murphy. “It is a rally, but since it’s on the day of Mardi Gras, people will bring the celebratory aspect — a drive and passion to fight for queer rights and a better world.”

The official Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade has historically been held on the first weekend of March. It started in 1978 as a protest against police violence and discrimination, met with 53 arrests and protesters being beaten in lock-ups. Since then, thousands have flocked to Oxford Street each year. Floats pass by: Dykes on Bikes, Rainbow Families, and the 78ers alike. 

In recent years, however, the official Mardi Gras parade has been criticised for its increasing corporatisation, and many argue the parade has lost its political soul. In 2020, the crowd cheered as the ANZ float made its way down Oxford Street. And in 2021, the official Mardi Gras parade was relocated to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), now costing $20 a pop. 

“Many individuals believe the true home of Mardi Gras is on Oxford Street,” says Murphy, a member of Pride in Protest. “Pride in Protest has decided that we want to have a march on the Mardi Gras day that is free and accessible to any member of the community.”

For the last three years, Pride in Protest has been working to disband the police float due to the history of police violence, particularly against queer First Nations people.

Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, nearly 450 First Nations People have died in custody. This includes Veronica Baxter, a trans woman who died in a men’s prison just days after the 2009 Mardi Gras Parade. 

“It’s not actually just the police who march in Mardi Gras…” Murphy says. “Corrective Services have blood on their hands when it comes to deaths in custody as well… Trans women are still put in male prisons here in NSW.”

At the 1978 Mardi Gras, protesters chanted “Stop police attacks on gays, women, and blacks.” This year, it seems that the political spirit will return to Oxford Street with Pride in Protest.

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