Footage from last week’s Mardi Gras of a young man seemingly being held down and beaten by police created shockwaves as it was spread around the world on social media. While the circumstances surrounding this incident aren’t clear cut it was very distressing to see this happening in 2013, after decades having been spent trying to build good relations between police and the LGBTI community. There is much concern that this incident, and similar incidents that took place on Mardi Gras night, will be a big step backwards.
But while there has been significant attention given to the actions of the police at Mardi Gras these are sadly only the tip of the iceberg. One only has to look at tragic cases like the death of teenager Tj Hickey after being chased by police in 2004 and the fatal tasering of Brazilian student Roberto Curti last year to realise that the use of excessive force by police is nothing new.
As a participant in the original Mardi Gras of 1978, when police were openly hostile towards the marchers, I was asked to speak at a rally on the issue this week. We called for an end to such violence and sought action to hold police accountable and restore the LGBTIQ community’s trust in the organisation. The crowd were passionate but peaceful, the text of my speech can be found here while footage of the rally is available here.