BY REBECCA ZOPPELLARO @beczoppellaro
The NSW Police Force has apologised to Mardi Gras founders the 78ers for police misconduct during the 1978 Sydney Mardi Gras protest march.
At the launch of this year’s Mardi Gras, Superintendent Tony Crandell, with the support of the NSW Police Commissioner, issued an apology to the 78ers for their mistreatment by NSW Police.
“Sorry for the way that the Mardi Gras was policed on the first occasion in 1978,” Superintendent Crandell said. “And for that we apologise.
“We also acknowledge the pain and heartache that the police caused at the event in 1978.”
Crandell, who is the NSW Police Corporate Sponsor for LGTBI issues, noted that the NSW Police Force’s relationship with the LGTBI community has faced a long journey since the events of 1978 but has progressed into a positive relationship.
“Today we are a police force of diversity and we celebrate diversity, particularly through our participation in Mardi Gras events and the way we police those Mardi Gras events,” he said.
Crandell noted that the NSW Police Force was invited to participate as marchers in the Mardi Gras for the 20th consecutive time.
“I can tell you that there will be many proud police officers marching in the parade.”
78er Sandi Banks acknowledged that the Police Commissioner had yet to come forward with an official apology. “It would be greatly appreciated and we would be able to put to rest what started out as an absolute riot,” she said.
At the 1978 Mardi Gras a total of 53 gay and lesbian protesters were arrested and beaten by police.
Barbara Karpinski, who was arrested at the 1978 rally, noted the extreme violence and brutality she witnessed.
“I spent some time in jail and I witnessed a lot of brutality,” Ms Karpinski said. “As people who put their hands on the counter to be fingerprinted, those hands were smashed down.”
78ers member Sandi Banks added, “There was no rhyme or reason to it. This was violent.”
Mardi Gras ambassador Courtney Act, who spoke at the launch, thanked Crandell and noted her appreciation for the apology.
“We all witnessed history just then,” she said. “That was amazing. You know acknowledging the past is such an important part of moving forward and it’s so wonderful to have the government and police acknowledge that.
“I think it’s an important part of coming together and Mardi Gras is all about coming together.”
The Sydney Mardi Gras Parade will celebrate LGBTI pride tomorrow evening, marching through Darlinghurst.
Follow Sydney TAFE Media’s Instagram coverage of the parade tomorrow night.