People participate in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade
More than 12,000 people have marched through inner Sydney in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Image by Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS
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Mardi Gras parade sparkles through sorrow and tension

March 3, 2024

Long after the floats were parked, Sydney’s hardiest revellers have greeted the sunrise following an all-night party for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

An estimated 120,000 spectators watched 12,500 participants dance, spin and shine along inner Sydney’s Oxford Street on Saturday night.

More than 10,000 partygoers swapped pageantry for warehouse energy at the official after-party, headlined by American singer Adam Lambert.

As festivities raged through the night, clean-up crews quickly got to work, racing to sweep the streets once the parade concluded.

People participate in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade
 Mardi Gras revellers were praised by police, with some 120,000 people flocking to inner Sydney. Image by Rounak Amini/AAP PHOTOS 

Despite tensions over police participation in the annual parade, officers received a positive reception as they marched alongside NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb and Police Minister Yasmin Catley, flanked by their on-duty colleagues in uniform.

“Yesterday’s celebration was a great example of a successful mardi gras event,” operation commander and NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said on Sunday.

“The majority of people were well-behaved and enjoyed the event safely and responsibly.”

Police were uninvited from the march after an officer was charged with the murder of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies, intensifying the ongoing debate about police presence in the parade, which dates back to the response to the first event in 1978.

Tributes to the pair took place throughout the parade.

A Qantas float with the name of alleged murder victim Luke Davies
 Tributes to Jesse Baird and Luke Davies featured throughout the Mardi Gras parade on Saturday. Image by Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS 

Saturday’s parade was also the first to feature a state premier, with Chris Minns accompanied by ministers Penny Sharpe and Rose Jackson in Rainbow Labor’s contingent.

Pro-Palestinian protesters almost interrupted Mr Minns’ participation as he reached the city’s Taylor Square, police said, but they were arrested before engaging with the premier.

One man and seven women, aged 25 to 42, were charged with a violent disorder offence, carrying a maximum penalty of six months in jail.

Separately, a woman was charged for trying to enter a marshalling area while carrying a packet of screws.

Revellers were otherwise praised.

Early morning party-goers after the Sydney Mardi Gras parade
 Police said the majority of people were well-behaved and enjoyed the event safely and responsibly. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

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

Now a two-week festival, the rainbow extravaganza will round out on Sunday with a street music party.