Syd Mardi Gras defends social justice cred

The chief executive of the Sydney Mardi Gras insists his organisation remains centred on social justice but won’t support a protest planned for Saturday, saying safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic remains paramount.

Protesters planning the LGBTQI rights march on Saturday afternoon to mark Mardi Gras will soon learn if their gathering will be declared illegal.

The NSW Supreme Court will on Friday consider a bid by the state police commissioner to stop this weekend’s gathering in inner Sydney.

The march is due to take place ahead of the official Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, moved to the Sydney Cricket Ground due to COVID-19.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Gelina Talbot told reporters on Friday the protest was unauthorised as it would exceed the maximum number of people allowed at political gatherings under health rules.

The current limit on political gatherings is 500. More than 1100 people have already RSVPed to attend the march, with another 3200 interested.

But Ms Talbot said the police would accept Friday’s court outcome.

Mardi Gras chief executive Albert Kruger told reporters that his organisation remained a social justice organisation at its core but could not condone protests in violation of NSW’s public health orders.

About 10,000 people are expected at the Mardi Gras parade at the SCG.

“We’ve given every single float a 45-second dedicated spot on our broadcast to get their message across … it’s not just about walking around in fancy costumes, it’s a social justice event,” Mr Kruger said.

“We support protest, absolutely do, no other way to put it.

“(But) we want to make sure whatever event we put on, we can safely do so and confidently say our patrons coming to this event will be safe.”

Mr Kruger also said revellers should either attend ticketed events and afterparties or host gatherings of up to 50 people at home.

Activist group Pride In Protest is among those organising the march which plans to take the route of the original 1978 march down Oxford Street.

Organisers say the march down Oxford Street had been planned because the SCG event didn’t represent the Mardi Gras’ true purpose.

The march will go ahead regardless of the court outcome, Pride In Protest spokesman Toby Walmsley told AAP this week.

National Justice Project lawyers representing the organisers say police have no reasonable basis to ban the protest and a COVID-safe plan is in place for people to register, wear masks, sanitise and practice social distancing.

Meanwhile, Ms Talbot said police would be out in force on Saturday across Oxford Street, Hyde Park and Moore Park to ensure reveller safety.

Revellers should also wear masks on public transport, Ms Talbot said.

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