Gays protest homophobic violence in Sydney

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The Lord Mayor of Sydney spoke at a rally held in the city last weekend to protest at the rising number of attacks on gay and lesbian people.

Hundreds of people turned out on Australia Day for the Reclaim the Right event.

Organiser Ben Veenkamp welcomed the presence of Mayor Clover Moore and Liberal city councillor Shayne Mallard.

“The thing that I’m hoping [to do] by drawing all these people to this park, is for people to [be] empowered to get those results, rather than to depend on the agencies who’ve been promising for so long,” he told ABC News.

There have been a series of attacks on gay people in and around Oxford St, the centre of the Sydney gay village.

Police in the area have faced severe criticism for failing to take the assaults seriously enough.

Last week acting Central Metropolitan Regional Commander Paul Carey told the Sydney Star Observer:

“All too often people become a victim of crime or an offender because of alcohol and drug abuse, and police in Surry Hills and surrounding inner-city suburbs are tackling these issues on a nightly basis.

“It should also be pointed out that it can be difficult for police to positively determine that a crime is motivated by homophobia or any other prejudice without first interviewing the offender to ascertain their motivation.”

The spate of gay bashings comes at a key time for the city’s gay community.

Next month sees the 30th anniversary of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

This year’s proceedings kick off on Saturday 9th February with a commemorative tree planting ceremony in Centennial Park and will culminate in the world famous-parade along Oxford St on Saturday 1st March.

The three week arts, sports and cultural festival will see a wealth of international and national performers and visitors in 2008.

Singer Cyndi Lauper, and stand up comic Margaret Cho are among the headline acts.

Mardi Gras is a major contributor to Sydney’s reputation as a global city, and brings thousands of international and interstate visitors, who inject more than $46 million (£20.5m) to the New South Wales economy.