‘Go home, pigs’: Chaos on Sydney streets

Assignment Freelance Picture Protestors have been moved on by NSW Police at Oxford St. Picture:
 Supplied/ @brianthomsontv
Protesters have been moved on by NSW Police at Oxford St. Picture: Supplied/ @brianthomsontv

Chaotic scenes unfolded in Sydney on Friday night with organisers of an anti-police rally, to coincide with Sydney’s Mardi Gras, claiming they were assaulted by NSW Police.

Far left activist group Pride in Protest, which organised the demonstration in the heart of the city’s LGBTIQ community of Darlinghurst, said 300 people were in attendance.

It posted videos online which it claimed showed officers pushing people off the roadway. It also said a trans woman was “grabbed by the throat” by a cop.

NSW Police said it was an “unauthorised protest,” and while officers did “physically remove" protesters who refused to get off the road there were no reports of any injuries or property damage.

The protest comes in the wake of the alleged killing by serving NSW police officer Beau Lamarre-Condon of gay couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

Earlier the same evening, a vigil was held for the pair.

Supplied  Mardi Gras: Chaos as anti-police protesters moved on by NSW Police.\n Picture: Pride in Protest, organisers of the protest
Anti-police protesters have claimed Police assaulted those demonstrating. Picture: Pride in Protest.

‘Pigs, go home’:

The atmosphere was tense as a police operation occurred on the major thoroughfares of Oxford St and Flinders St, near Taylor Sq in Darlinghurst, where protesters had stopped cars.

Lines of police officers and vehicles were seen on Oxford St – where the Mardi Gras parade will traverse on Saturday.

Cries of “pigs, go home,” could be heard in the melee.

Outside Surry Hills Police Station, officers could be seen in videos uploaded to social media moving protesters off the road, physically pushing them in some instances, as they were heckled.

Pride in Protest said in a statement that “police began instigating violence”.

“Police officers formed lines, and began pushing, hitting, and threatening people”.

It alleged a police officer “grabbed a transgender woman by the throat,” threatened to pepper spray people and kettled protesters who weren’t blocking roads.

Assignment Freelance Picture Protestors have been moved on by NSW Police at Oxford St. Picture:\n Supplied/ @brianthomsontv
Protesters have been moved on by NSW Police at Oxford St. Picture: Supplied/ @brianthomsontv

Police version of events

In a statement to news.com.au, NSW Police said it responded to an “unauthorised protest,” at Taylor Sq.

“About 8.30pm, the group moved onto the roadway, blocking all vehicle traffic.

“With the assistance of additional police, the crowd were directed to move onto the footpath. “Those who did not comply with police directions were physically removed.”

Police then said some of the group moved to Surry Hills Police Centre and continued to protest.

“As the group dispersed, they moved onto Goulburn St, again blocking vehicle traffic before police intervened moving them onto the footpath.

“There were no reports of any property being damaged, persons being injured, or any arrests being made”.

There were claims police had taken some protesters’ mobile phones. NSW Police said a phone was found on the ground, taken to a police station and later returned to its owner.

Police at Mardi Gras

Although police are present at Mardi Gras, like they are at any major event, some officers also march in the Mardi Gras parade itself as part of an official NSW Police float.

Pride in Protest has long campaigned for police to be barred from marching.

It accuses NSW Police of long term homophobia. Mardi Gras itself grew out of a 1978 protest in defiance of the brutality meted out by police to gay people in Sydney.

Supplied Editorial Fwd: Sorry not sure who on pic desk
NSW Police have previously marched in uniform at Mardi Gras but this year have been told they can only do so in a reduced capacity and out of uniform in the wake of the deaths of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

But opinion in Sydney’s wider LGBTIQ community has been divided on the issue.

NSW Police has apologised for its past actions against the LGBTIQ community as well as its previous lack of action on gay hate crimes. Many now see the police force’s inclusion in the parade as a sign of improving relations.

Following the death of Mr Baird and Mr Davies, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras initially “uninvited” serving NSW Police officers entirely from the parade. The organisation then modified its stance and said “LGBTQIA+ officers, and their allies and supporters,” could march – but not in police uniform.

Assignment Freelance Picture Protestors have been moved on by NSW Police at Oxford St. Picture:\n Supplied/ @brianthomsontv
The NSW Police were there as part of a police operation. Picture: Supplied/ @brianthomsontv

Protesters’ demands

The organisers of Friday’s protest took aim at Mardi Gras as well as the police.

“Mardi Gras took a stand to disinvite the police in response to community outrage over the police, but they have folded after pressure and intimidation from the cops and (NSW Premier) Chris Minns,” said Pride in Protest in a statement.

“This is a march demanding an end to police violence, ranging from the murders of Luke Davies and Jesse Baird to Blak (sic) deaths in custody like (in 2009 of Indigenous trans woman) Veronica Baxter.”

Organiser Charlie Murphy, who was previously a Mardi Gras board member from Pride in Protest, said that if the police did march in the parade on Saturday, even if not in uniform, “then the Mardi Gras board must be dissolved”.

People associated with the Pride in Protest group have board positions on Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras but are not in the majority.

In a statement Mardi Gras said that the decision to green light LGBTI police officers not in uniform to march “allows for (officers) who volunteer their time and service to the community to participate in the event in a considered and respectful way as we navigate this tragedy together”.