Activists take over Sydney’s Oxford Street to protest anti-LGBTQ+ attacks and demand queer-safe spaces

People celebrate Sydney Pride 2023

Australian activists took over Sydney’s Oxford Street this weekend to protest a recent rise in anti-LGBTQ+ attacks and call for more queer-safe spaces.

Hundreds of protesters from groups like the National Union of Students and Pride in Protest, were joined by allies, drag performers, and other activists on Saturday night (2 September) to march down Oxford Street before listening to speeches.

The demonstration is a response to a recent spike in reports of homophobic and transphobic behaviours in Sydney.

The ‘Whose Street? Our Street!’ protest called for the New South Wales government to provide safeguards for LGBTQ+ citizens by fast-tracking the state’s proposed equality bills.

The Equality Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, introduced by MP Alex Greenwich, would update the state’s anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ people, modernise the language in a number of laws, and allow people aged over 16 to register a change of sex or gender.

This bill, along with a second that would outlaw gay conversion therapy and other suppression practices, has been tabled for the time being, with plans to look into them again at the end of 2023.

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Sydney hosted this year’s WorldPride event. (Getty Images)

Speaking at Saturday’s protest, Jamie Bridge of the Queer Action Collective said, per Star Observer: “Queer people are amongst one the worst affected by the housing crisis, with no end in sight.

“Gender-affirming healthcare remains criminally overpriced and underfunded, and NSW remains the only state to gatekeeper gender-affirming ID.”

“Indeed it is up to us, the community, to protect [ourselves] and fight for our rights.”

Fellow activist Charlie Murphy called for the government to power forward with the tabled bills.

“Us being on this street tonight, we are saying we will not wait. Pass the Bill immediately,” they said.

Initially, there were fears that New South Wales Police could potentially shut down Saturday’s protest if the march blocked off traffic.

Instead, however, law enforcement was on hand to assist activists who showed up on the night, and foiled two counter-protest groups who emerged on the night.

According to QNews, the first group, who held a megaphone and a banner that read “Christ or Chaos” was thwarted before they could begin.

Police then diverted a second group who were making their way to the march with black scarves covering their faces before they could reach the protesters.

Saturday’s protest came just one day after a separate LGBTQ+ event was shut down in Sydney’s Bankstown area following an upsetting attack.

Alex Greenwich, New South Wales MP
New South Wales MP Alex Greenwich introduced three equality bills earlier this year, that would protect LGBTQ+ people. (Getty Images).

To mark Wear It Purple day, a pop-up stall had been set up in Bankstown Central shopping centre, offering support and advice to LGBTQ+ youth, as well as a drag story time event and an appearance from comedian and drag performer Carla from Bankstown.

However, the pop-up was abruptly shut down over safety concerns after a group of men were seen tearing down LGBTQ+ flags, shouting abuse, and generally causing trouble.

A spokesperson for the City of Canterbury Bankstown told The Sydney Morning Herald that the homophobic incident was being taken seriously as a hate crime and that investigations were underway.