The 78ers at the first Sydney Mardi Gras (L) and NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. | Photo: Facebook/78ers Association
Pioneers in Australia’s LGBTI movement were brought to tears as the head of police apologized for extreme violence against the community 40 years ago.
On June 24, 1978 a group of activists hosted the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Part protest and part celebration of the community, the night descended into chaos and violence when police cornered the revellers. They threw 178 people into jail and violently assaulted many of the protesters.
That group of people went on the known as the 78ers.
In an emotional speech last night the state police commissioner apologized to the 78ers at an official function. New South Wales (NSW) Police Commissioner Mick Fuller not only apologized for the past wrongdoings of police against the LGBTI community, but also promised it would never happen again.
‘The stories of violence I heard made me embarrassed,’ Fuller said.
‘You only get one chance to try and heal the wounds of 40 years.’ Fuller said it was hard to use just words to make up for the dark history between police and the LGBTI community.
But he started simply, ‘as commissioner of police, I personally apologize’.
Not the first apology
In 2016, the 78ers received a string of apologies from institutions that caused them great harm after that fateful night.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper apologized for printing the names of the people arrested. Many lost their jobs as a result of their names appearing in the paper.
The NSW State Government also offered an official apology for the injustice the LGBTI community. The police also offered an apology in 2016, but it was offered without notice by now Assistant Police Commissioner, Tony Crandell, who has acted as the head of the LGBTI division for several years.
Fuller said the NSW Force had worked very hard to repair the relationship with the LGBTI community. That’s why he hosted the official function with the 78ers.
‘We are positive about the prospects of a better future together, but I felt that future wouldn’t be the same unless I came here and said sorry,’ he said.
The 78ers Association thanked Fuller for his apology, with five 78ers delivering emotional speeches on the night.
‘Today, five 78ers gave powerful speeches that brought tears to the eyes of audience members. In addition to an unreserved apology, Commissioner Fuller committed the Police Force to never repeating the abuse suffered by 78ers again,’ they wrote on Facebook.