Police hope to reverse Mardi Gras call to scrap invite

Jack Gramenz and Samantha Lock |

Police officers have marched for the past 20 years at Mardi Gras in Sydney.
Police officers have marched for the past 20 years at Mardi Gras in Sydney.

Senior police have met Mardi Gras organisers in an attempt to reverse a decision to bar a uniformed contingent from marching in Sydney’s annual gay and lesbian festival.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said she was surprised at the Mardi Gras board decision on Monday night, which followed an officer being charged with the murders of two men.

“I have to accept their decision … but I’d just like to meet with them and talk about how this may adversely affect police, particularly members of the gay and lesbian community,” she said.

Ms Webb acknowledged people within the LGBTQI community were divided, adding she would talk to festival organisers to “see how we get things back on track”.

Police officers at Mardi Gras
NSW Premier Chris Minns says police not marching in the Mardi Gras parade would be a step backwards. (Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS)

Police confirmed later on Tuesday the meeting had taken place after the invitation to march in Saturday’s parade was withdrawn on Monday night.

The debate over police participation in the Mardi Gras parade has intensified after the arrest of Senior Constable Beau Lamarre-Condon, 28, over the alleged murders of Jesse Baird, 26, and his boyfriend Luke Davies, 29.

The killings allegedly occurred at Mr Baird’s home in inner-city Paddington, not far from where the parade will take place.

“Our community needs space to grieve the loss of Jesse and Luke who, before this tragedy, would have been here celebrating with us at the festival,” the Mardi Gras board said in a statement.

Investigators allege Lamarre-Condon’s crimes followed a months-long campaign of “predatory behaviour” towards Mr Baird, who he briefly dated.

The senior constable previously marched in the parade with the NSW Police contingent.

Other floats would have boycotted the parade if police were allowed to march because of the grief and extreme anger in the community, Pride in Protest spokeswoman Charlie Murphy told AAP.

“The relationship between police and the community is at complete rock bottom and there is no confidence and trust in them,” she said.

But senior politicians have backed police marching.

Premier Chris Minns said he was hopeful the meeting between police and organisers would yield a breakthrough and that officers could march.

“I’m not pretending that relations between the community and NSW Police are perfect and many people believe there’s a long way to go, but I think even the harshest critics of the police will say that there has been progress,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said relations have come a long way since police arrested 53 marchers at the inaugural Mardi Gras in 1978.

“I think it’s been very good that the police have marched … the relationships have been turned around and have been positive, but I understand that the queer community in Sydney, in particular, are grieving what is an enormous tragedy,” he said.

The decision on officers marching was ultimately one for organisers and police to make, the prime minister said.

Independent state MP Alex Greenwich, whose Sydney electorate office is on the parade’s Oxford St route, said the march showcased the diversity of the community and all parties needed to work together to ensure NSW was safe.

“There are historic and ongoing concerns about policing practices relating to the LGBT community,” he said.

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