In 1978, the first Mardi Gras was a crowd of 2000 gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans*persons, sex workers and allies marched to protest housing, health and police abuse problems amongst other issues in the LGBTI community. After this show of force, 53 people were arrested by the police and outed publicly, with many of the march reporting mistreatment over the years before and after the protest.
“I am a 78’er and a heterosexual woman with a trans past who has suffered violence on many occasions from the police at both Kings Cross and Surry Hills police,” said one of the attendees of the original Mardi Gras. “One time they made me get down on the floor and eat a sausage like a dog plus had to bark like one when I was to, or wear the cops’ batons.”
While we are less bold in admitting them, these issues of police brutality are once more visible in our community. While Mardi Gras has become a corporate celebration, that makes $30 000 000 for the state that it once contested, the issues of police brutality have been recognised to be an ongoing problem.
In this year’s Mardi Gras period, countless people were needlessly strip searched, women’s clothing was censored and a number were outright beaten. Alex Greenwich, independent MP for Sydney, and ACON have both received numerous complaints and Bryn Hutchinson has recently come out to the media as a victim of police brutality.
People everywhere have taken notice, after a recording of Jamie Jackson’s brutal arrest went viral, and their distress escalated into a mass action organised by Community Action Against Homophobia this recent Friday. 2000 people marched from Taylor Square to the Surry Hills police station, carrying giant rainbows, banners and placards and a strong demand for an end to police violence.
Solidarity actions were also held internationally, with one colourful example being the ‘glitter bombing’ of the Australian Embassy by the New Zealand Queer Avengers, the same activist group who ‘glitter bombed’ the transphobic Germaine Greer.
Many conservatives have come out in support of the police over the course of the campaign, trying to invalidate criticism of the police by accusing Jamie Jackson of being violent. While eye witnesses allege the accusations against Jamie are not entirely true, such a defence misses the point of the community outrage and the campaign that has developed.
This campaign and protest is not just about Jamie Jackson or even the poor behaviour of the police force in the recent Mardi Gras period, these are merely the straws that broke the camel’s back. There is a structural issue with the police force and it is imperative that, for as long as the police force and the prison complex exists, that we find methods to hold police to account and bring them to justice.
In New Matilda, David Shoebridge of the Greens proposed a completely independent body to investigate police misconduct – an idea which is currently enacted in the United Kingdom but has little support amongst the pro-police MPs of the LNP and ALP. It is measures like these that are necessary to ensure some justice in a system where the police, who despite incidences of death, electrocution, beatings and verbal intimidation have never once been successfully charged after incidences.
Evan was one of the organisers for this week’s ‘Snap Action’ protest