Australia: Sydney's Mardi Gras: 40 years of pride and protest – in pictures

Sydney's first Mardi Gras was the last in a series of events produced as part of the Day of International Gay Solidarity, on 24 June 1978, by the Gay Solidarity Group, following a morning protest march and a public meeting. At 10pm that night, people began to assemble at Taylor Square, with the crowd surrounding a flatbed truck with a sound system playing Meg Christian’s Ode to a Gym Teacher and Tom Robinson’s Glad to be Gay as they set off down Oxford Street to Hyde Park.

Even though the street festival had a permit to “assemble and march”, the police kept forcing the truck to speed up. By the time they got to College Street, the police confiscated the truck and tried to arrest the driver and key organiser, Lance Gowland, in the first confrontation of the evening. The hyped-up crowd decided to head to Kings Cross, but soon after their arrival the police swooped in without warning, blocking exits, arresting 53 and bashing many back at Darlinghurst police station.

One of the most audacious Mardi Gras floats was produced for leather and fetish store The Link by owner David Beschi, featuring an actual tank. Hired from the Tuggerah Lakes military museum, the tank arrived on the back of a large flatbed truck. Beschi notes that when they got it off the back of the truck and started it up “it tore-up 10 yards of bitumen and the noise was thunderous, so we had to put it back on the flatbed truck and drive it and us in the parade. Later I got a bill from the council for $7,000 for road repairs to Crown Street.” Read more via the Guardian