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On a Saturday evening, June 24, 1978, supporters of gay rights took to the streets of Sydney, inspired by international Gay Solidarity Celebrations, which spread globally following the Stonewall Riots of 1969. A celebration at Taylor Square on Oxford Street turned into a violent police crackdown.
During the parade, demonstrators followed a single truck down the street. When the truck reached Hyde Park, where speeches were to take place, police pounced and shut down its music system and arrested the driver.
Supporters continued their march along William Street and into Darlinghurst Road and walked into a police trap, where paddy wagons and officers waited for them . There was a bloody and violent clash between police and the gay rights activists. 53 people were arrested. Many of them were subjected to ill treatment in custody.
Homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1984.
For the first time, the government of the state of New South Wales has apologised to gay rights activists who were involved in the violent 1978 parade. Many of the original group of 500 LGBT supporters, known as the “78ers,” were present in NSW Parliament on 24 February 2016 as MPs apologised on behalf of the government.
Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith presented the apology motion for “the harm and distress the events of 1978” had on the group and their families.
“We recognise that you were ill-treated, you were mistreated, you were embarrassed and shamed, and it was wrong. I hope it’s not too late that you can accept an apology but also we want to recognise that for all of that pain that you went through, you brought about fundamental change in this society and fundamental change for the many gay and lesbian people like myself, who can be open and relaxed about ourselves. You were the game changers.”