Disciples of Fred Nile and his Christian Democrat Party (CDP) gathered in Belmore Park in Sydney on September 20 to convince each other that their anti-marriage equality stance is right. They were supported by police, who facilitated their bigoted ranting and kept marriage equality protestors as far away as possible.
A counter rally was organised by Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH), whose supporters were moved along by police before the CDP gathering even started. It was clear whose side they were on, with a line of police only a few feet from the marriage equality campaigners, whereas they kept a protective distance from Nile’s gathering.
The counter rally was peaceful until a couple of the CDP supporters came towards it and police jumped in. No such threat was made to the CDP rally by CAAH.
As the CDP rally began to march towards Martin Place for an outdoor church service led by Nile, police ensured the peaceful counter protestors could not follow. One organiser was led away and threatened with arrest for public swearing.
Under New South Wales law it is an offence to swear within hearing distance of a public place or a school. It is not necessary for an individual to hear the offensive language in question.
At rallies occasionally, swearing in chants occurs, but police rarely threaten to arrest. The discretionary use of the public swearing law is a clear indication of the police’s pro-Christian bias and homophobic agenda.
The marriage equality campaign is growing in strength, and the Christian right is worried Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will cave in to the mass pressure.
Turnbull did a deal with the right wing of the Liberal Party to get the numbers to oust Tony Abbott. His marriage equality position is another affront in a long list of betrayals by the Liberal and Labor parties. Like Abbott, he calls for a plebiscite after the next election, at a cost of almost $160 million.
That the Christian right is rallying shows their desperation. Previously they relied on letter writing and distributing homophobic information in schools.
The marriage equality campaign will win. But we have to keep mobilising to get there because equality will not wait for cynical electoral ploys. Grassroots group Ballarat Equal Love will rally on October 31. CAAH will rally again on November 7. The Christian right and the Liberal Party are warned: the marriage equality movement will not be silenced.