Trans rights rally proceeds despite Supreme Court ruling

Protestors at today's rally in Taylor Square. Photo: Jenny Leong MP/Twitter.

A rally against One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham’s so-called ‘Trans Erasure Bill’ has gone ahead in Sydney’s Taylor Square despite NSW Police trying to stop it, purportedly on Covid-19 safety grounds. 

Approximately 300 people gathered in the square, long considered the spiritual heart of LGBTQI Sydney, for the rally hosted by Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) and LGBTI Rights Australia

The protest commenced at 1pm, defying yesterday’s NSW Supreme Court ruling banning the event. NSW Police successfully sought the order prohibiting the rally, arguing that it posed a risk to public health.

NSW Greens MP and Member for Newtown Jenny Leong, who attended today’s rally, said the actions of NSW Police were hypocritical, considering their lack of opposition to other large public events.

“We have the right to protest – if it’s safe to go to the footy or the horse races and hang in large crowds then it’s unacceptable that the police are trying to shut down peaceful protest,” Leong posted on Twitter as the event commenced. 

Organisers handed out rainbow face masks and encouraged social distancing at the rally, which was followed by a march down Oxford Street to Hyde Park.

While police didn’t physically stop the rally from proceeding, a NSW Police officer read out a move-on order at Taylor Square, which was largely drowned out by the crowd.

Queer rights activist, rally supporter and attendee Rachel Evans told the Sentinel police were ‘kettling’ protestors at various points, especially during the march from Taylor Square to Hyde Park.

“The kettling made it difficult for us to adhere to social distancing,” she said.

“It just gives the lie to their claims that their opposition to these events is all about safety.

“300 people aren’t allowed to gather for a rally, yet 40,000 people are allowed into a stadium, the beaches are full, the shopping centres are full and the markets are full.” 

Twelve protestors were issued $1000 fines by police at Hyde Park for defying the Supreme Court order, including CARR representative and rally organiser April Holcombe. 

Holcombe described today’s events as a victory for “people power”.

“There were about 100 police officers on Oxford Street and around Taylor Square but they realised there were just too many of us to push us out of Taylor Square,” Holcombe told the Sentinel

“As we marched down Oxford Street, they tried to stop us taking the road three or four times … we were forced to alternate between the footpath and the road,” she said. 

Holcombe said the fact the rally and march went ahead – despite the Supreme Court decision – showed that “ordinary people have the ability to get together and not submit to efforts to curtail their rights”. 

“It was a beautiful demonstration of people power.”

Today’s events were in response to Latham’s Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill, widely known as the ‘Trans Erasure Bill’.

The private member’s bill, introduced to NSW parliament in August, seeks to amend the Education Act 1990, the Teacher Accreditation Act 2004 and the Education Standards Authority Act 2013 to prohibit schools from teaching that trans and gender diverse people exist and should be treated with respect.

If enacted, it would also prohibit school counsellors from providing support to trans and gender diverse students, allow parents to withdraw their children from classes which affirm LGBTQI students, and put teachers at risk of losing their jobs if they support trans or gender diverse students.

Last month, in an exclusive piece for the Sentinel, international queer rights campaigner Peter Tatchell compared the bill to Britain’s infamous Section 28, which banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by schools and local councils in Britain from the late 1980s to early 2000s.

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