Multiple arrests as Mardi Gras haunted by tragedy of slain couple

There were 12,500 participants in the colourful and glittery parade.

There were 12,500 participants in the colourful and glittery parade. Photo: Getty

Nine protesters who attempted to disrupt Sydney’s Mardi Gras have been arrested for entering the parade route as NSW Premier Chris Minns made his way along Oxford Street.

The group let off flares just metres from Minns as they unfurled a banner promoting queer solidarity with Palestinians.

Minns was the first NSW leader to march in the parade, along with senior minister Penny Sharpe and federal colleague Tanya Plibersek as part of the Rainbow Labor float.

Despite the scuffle, police said the overall behaviour of 120,000 spectators and 12,500 participants on Saturday night was “pleasing”.

There were no major incidents other than the arrest of the seven men and two women.

“Police on parade and Public Order officers arrested the nine prior to them engaging with the Premier. Minns continued and left the route as intended,” said a NSW Police statement.

“All nine were taken to Surry Hills Police Station, with inquiries continuing.”

A 20-year-old woman was arrested earlier at Hyde Park after allegedly attempting to enter the marshalling area in possession of a packet of screws.

She was taken to Surry Hills Police Station and issued a future service court attendance notice for possession of an offensive implement.

Haunted by tragedy

The annual parade as part of the Mardi Gras festival carried a tinge of sadness in mourning Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

The Qantas float carried Davies’ name on its nose cone in honour of the 29-year-old flight attendant, as his colleagues followed in rainbow kangaroo shirts.

His mother Sandy Davies reportedly joined the crew on the float, reports

Marchers in the Sydney Swans float wore black armbands in memory of AFL umpire Baird.

Tensions in the lead-up over the participation of NSW Police in the parade culminated in a positive reception.

Uniformed police flanked gay and lesbian liaison officers marching alongside Commissioner Karen Webb and Police Minister Yasmin Catley.

“Yesterday’s celebration was a great example of a successful Mardi Gras event. The majority of people were well-behaved and enjoyed the event safely and responsibly,” operation commander, assistant commissioner Anthony Cooke of NSW Police said.

A Qantas float bears the name of slain flight attendant Luke Davies. Photo: AAP

Parade-leading motorcycle club Dykes on Bikes revved up engines and the crowd as the festivities began, later pausing in Taylor Square in recognition of the pair.

Solidarity was on show early as the First Nations float held signs supporting Gazans, while Palestinian flags were visible throughout the parade.

Pride in Protest continued the theme, drawing support from spectators as they called for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to alleged police violence against queer and minority communities.

The Queer Arab Alliance and Jewish community group Dayenu also received warm receptions from the crowd.

Firefighters and paramedics were cheered along the route with an occasional celebratory siren as a member on a stretcher was resuscitated through the power of dance.

Perched on a yellow convertible, Sydney Mayor Clover Moore waved to crowds alongside independent state MP Alex Greenwich.

First held more than four decades ago as a protest against discrimination, the Sydney Mardi Gras has become one of the world’s largest LGBTQI events.

The shimmering glittery parade brings life to Sydney’s Oxford Street. Photo: AAP

Special tributes

Among the usual revelry there was space to remember Luke Davies and Jesse Baird as Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras passed near an inner-city home that became a memorial.

The pair were allegedly murdered on February 19 at a terrace in Paddington, about a kilometre from Darlinghurst’s Taylor Square, the focal point of the parade’s march on Oxford Street.

The lead-up to Saturday night’s parade was a challenging week, Mardi Gras chief executive Gil Beckwith said.

“Obviously the loss of those two beautiful young men has been quite heartbreaking for so many in our community,” she told ABC during the parade.

Marchers wore rainbow kangaroos on their shirts behind a float featuring Luke Davies’ name on the nose cone of a Qantas plane in honour of the 29-year-old flight attendant.

Sydney Swans marked the deaths of Baird with black armbands for the 26-year-old AFL umpire as they marched up Oxford Street.

Alleged shooting victims Luke Davies (left) and Jesse Baird. Photo: AAP

The bodies of the two men were found inside surfboard bags at the fence line of a rural property in Bungonia near Goulburn, about 200km southwest of Sydney, on Tuesday.

NSW Police officer Beau Lamarre-Condon, 28, is in custody charged with murdering the pair at Mr Baird’s Paddington home on February 19.

Flowers filled the terrace’s fence throughout the week, one bouquet adorned with a scale-model Qantas plane, while an AFL umpire guernsey was also left at the scene.

The commemorations in Saturday night’s parade followed a vigil for the pair on Friday night, where mourners remembered the pair’s dazzling smiles and love for life.

-with AAP

Topics: Mardi Gras
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