Police allowed to march at Sydney’s Mardi Gras following new agreement

This compromise is a reversal of the previous decision to exclude police from Mardi Gras following Jesse Baird and Luke Davies' murder by an officer.

Police marching at Sydney's Mardi Gras, with officers wearing their uniforms and carrying rainbow flags.
Image: Via Instagram - @waggamardigras

Members of the New South Wales (NSW) police will be allowed to march out of uniform at Sydney’s Mardi Gras after a deal was reached between organisers and the force. This new agreement reverses the previous decision to exclude police from the parade, taken after a police officer was charged with the murders of Australian TV host Jesse Baird and his boyfriend Luke Davies.

On February 27, the bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies were found in a rural area outside Sydney after days of investigation. The news came four days after police officer Beaumont Lamarre-Condon was charged with the murders of the couple.

Police believe that the murders were “of a domestic nature” and not a “gay hate crime”, as Baird and Lamarre had been in “some type of relationship at some stage”, which “did not end well”. Ballistics tests also confirmed that the handgun used by Lamarre matched a police-issue firearm.

After it emerged that the pair had been murdered by a police officer, organisers of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras asked police not to join the annual parade this year. They explained in a statement that the call was made because the LGBTQ+ community needed “space to grieve”.

The decision sparked intense debate, with several LGBTQ+ rights campaigners such as Rodney Croome, Kerryn Phelps and Bill Bowtell criticising Mardi Gras organisers. Others praised the move, especially community groups such as Pride in Protest, who had long condemned police presence at the event.

In a statement released on Wednesday, February 28, Mardi Gras organisers said they had reached a new deal with the police and that LGBTQ+ liaison officers, LGBTQ+ officers and their allies will be allowed to march “in a reduced capacity to the originally planned NSW Police float.”

They added that “To address concerns from the community, [the police] will march in the 2024 parade out of uniform” but will still be allowed to participate in “a considered and respectful way as we navigate this tragedy together”.

Organisers also said that there is a need for better communication and understanding between the police, the NSW government, Mardi Gras and the broader LGBTQ+ community. “Police and LGBTQIA+ communities have shared a difficult history, which must inform the continued development of communication and collaboration,” they said.

Police Commissioner Karen Webb welcomed the reversal of the previous decision, saying that she was delighted that LGBTQ+ officers, “as well as our other police who are allies and supporters”, would be allowed to participate in the parade.

“Police have agreed not to march in uniform, in consideration of current sensitivities,” Webb said. “The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is an important event on the NSW Police calendar and as commissioner, I am committed to continuing to strengthen the relationship between my organisation and the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Gay Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich also praised the decision, saying: “Having the focus on gay and lesbian liaison police officers, and not in uniform, is an appropriate compromise to address community concerns about the police needing to improve their approach to the LGBTQ community and our events.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) will stand by its decision to withdraw from the event. “This decision was not taken lightly, but we acknowledge how some in the community are feeling about the blue uniform,” the force said. “We must always remember that this is an event for, and about LGBTQI+ communities, and those people who love and support them.

“While the AFP feels a deep connection and service to LGBTQI+ community, we understand their hurt because of a number of recent events.”

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