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NSW Police apologises to Mardi Gras founders the 78ers

Sydney’s gay and lesbian community was subjected to undue force and discrimination by the NSW Police during and following the first Mardi Gars in 1978. The state government made an official apology to 78ers, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, last week. Photo: Peter Rae
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Superintendent Tony Crandell with Baroness Loquacious Fish in Sydney on Friday. Photo: Kirk Gilmour

Mardi Gras Board Co-Chairs Fran Bowron and Greg Small, with Superintendent Tony Crandell. Photo: Kirk Gilmour

Sydney’s gay and lesbian community was subjected to undue force and discrimination by the NSW Police during and following the first Mardi Gars in 1978.

Daniel Kowalski, Sally Shipard, Craig Rogerson and Clementine Stoney Maconachie will have a float. Photo: Steven Siewert

Saturday’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is set to be a momentous occasion after the NSW Police Force added its voice to formal acknowledgments that the discrimination and mistreatment of gay rights protesters at the first Mardi Gras in 1978 was wrong and unjust.

Friday morning’s long-awaited and unexpected apology by the police force to Mardi Gras founders the “78ers” follows last week’s bipartisan state government apology and that of The Sydney Morning Herald.

On June 24, 1978, more than 500 activists took to Taylor Square in Darlinghurst in support and celebration of New York’s Stonewall movement and to call for an end to criminalisation of homosexual acts and discrimination against homosexuals. The peaceful movement ended in violence and public shaming at the hands of the police, government and media.

“This morning I spoke with the commissioner and I have his full support in saying that the NSW Police force is sorry for the way that the Mardi Gras was policed on the first occasion in 1978 and for that we apologise,” said Superintendent Tony Crandell, NSW Police spokesman for sexual and gender diversity, speaking at a Mardi Gras press conference.

“We also acknowledge the pain and hurt that the police actions caused at that event,” he said.

“We understand that the parliament-issued apology was on behalf of all NSW government agencies but we feel it important that the NSW police force perspective is well understood both by the 78ers but also by the LGBTQ community generally.”

78er Steve Warren said the announcement was a cause for celebration 38 years after the infamous melee and its traumatic effects.

“It’s a triple whammy for us,” said 78er Steve Warren. “It’s been quite a momentous week for us, it’s turning into an exciting parade.

“It’s fantastic, there were reservations because it hasn’t come from [NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione], but Superintendent Crandell has been working very closely with us, it was very special coming from him.”

He said that Saturday’s 78ers float has expanded in size and will now include around 100 78ers and their closest supporters, many of whom had lost hope of receiving high level apologies.

“We never expected those apologies to come now, even though we have been waiting for 38 years,” said Mr Warren. “We thank cross-party committee MPs for getting us to where we are now.”

Last Thursday, injustices towards the 78ers were unanimously acknowledged in parliament after a motion of apology was moved by Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith.

The day before, the Herald apologised for publishing the names of hundreds of protesters who were arrested both on that day and in another homosexual rights march the week before the protest.

Saturday will see two more historic firsts as both Olympic and Paralympic and NRL floats take to the famous parade route.

The Australian Olympic Committee and Australian Paralympic Committee’s inaugural float will be led by gold medallist Daniel Kowalski, who organised the event after receiving immediate and “overwhelming” support from the sports bodies.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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