Sydney gay Mardi Gras asks police not to march after officer accused of murders

By Thomson Reuters Feb 26, 2024 | 11:38 PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian police are in talks with organisers of Sydney’s world-famous Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade to decide whether to march in this weekend’s event after a serving police officer was charged with murdering two gay men.

Police said human remains were found on Tuesday in the search for the bodies of the men who had been missing for days, after the Sydney police officer was charged last Friday with murdering his former boyfriend and another man.

Karen Webb, the police commissioner in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales, said the force was in discussions with organisers about whether to attend the parade.

Parade organisers have said the LGBT community was unsettled by the alleged murders by the officer, who is also gay and had attended past parades.

“The board has taken the decision to request that the police do not march in the 2024 parade,” organisers said in a statement late on Monday, seeking to avoid adding to the distress within the communities.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said the discussions focused on a more limited presence for police at the event, including whether officers could participate in plainclothes.

Sydney’s police force has a complex relationship with the city’s gay and lesbian community.

The Mardi Gras parade, which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators, began after a gay rights protest was violently suppressed by police in 1978. The force formally apologised in 2018.

In recent years, relations have improved somewhat, with current and former officers who identify as LGBT marching in the parade in their uniforms for the last two decades.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he supported the right of officers to march in the parade.

“From my personal perspective, I think it’s been very good that the police have marched,” he said in a radio interview.

“It’s come a long way from the 1978 Mardi Gras, where people were arrested for the crime of being who they were.”

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in Sydney; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)