In June 1969, in a bar in New York called the Stonewall, gay men, lesbians and transsexuals barricaded police as a protest against police raids on gay and lesbian bars. This event, resulting in what is now remembered as the Stonewall Riots, is commemorated as International Gay Solidarity Day.
In 1978, in Sydney, more than 1000 marchers were marking International Gay Solidarity Day along Oxford St, southeast of the city centre, when police revoked the march permit and 53 of the marchers were arrested in the riot that ensured. Another 100 people were arrested in later protests.
All charges were later dropped and another march was held the following year, 1979, when the name Mardi Gras was adopted.
Thirty-four years after the arrests of 1978, the Sydney Mardi Gras has become less of a protest march and more of a grandiloquent display of color, art, excitement and Sydney’s spirit of both tolerance and acceptance of its gay and lesbian community.
The festival, now encompassing all the creative arts, was moved into summer, usually starting in early February. Currently it runs from three to four weeks and ends with a spectacular nighttime mardi gras parade which is said to be the biggest outdoor nighttime parade in the world.
The parade is followed by an all-night Mardi Gras party which ends the following morning.
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