Members of the No Pride In Detention float at Sydney’s Mardi Gras on Saturday night claim that they were pushed back in the parade after protests from the group set to march in front of them, Rainbow Labor — but Mardi Gras organisers say group was moved to ensure the safety of others.

The No Pride In Detention group, which protests against the way in which LGBTI refugees are detained, was originally scheduled to march directly behind the Liberal and Labor party contingents, but the group’s float was delayed a few spaces at the last minute before the parade started.

No Pride in Detention organiser Ed McMahon said in a press release he had been abused by a Mardi Gras organiser:

“I was abused by a Mardi Gras representative who threatened to expel the float from the parade for making these politicians uncomfortable. As a compromise, we were moved back while accompanied by an extra contingent of heavily armed riot police.”

The confrontation has been described as “fairly aggressive” by members of the NPID float, and some have posted a video of the exchange.

Mardi Gras organisers have put out a statement confirming that the float was moved to be further away from the Rainbow Labor float, but not because of a political request. The Mardi Gras organisers’ statement said:

“Inside the marshalling area, just before the Parade began, it was reported to parade officials by NSW Police that there was an unacceptable level of harassment and offensive comments from the No Pride in Detention float members being directed towards members of the Rainbow Labor float, including leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten and deputy leader of the opposition, Tanya Plibersek.”

The organisers say that the decision was made at the last minute, and tensions were high:

“Police requested parade officials ensure the safety of the Rainbow Labor float participants during the parade. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras strongly believe the No Pride in Detention Float has a very important message to send, and without wanting the police to intervene and remove the float from the parade, a last minute decision to reshuffle the run order was made. At the time, this was considered the best course of action to ensure both parties were able to march and spread their individual messages to the world while maintaining safety for all marchers.

“The production and ordering of the Parade is a highly complex logistical feat. The level of harassment reported to parade officials, just prior to 12,500 people commencing to march along   Oxford Street, meant that tensions were understandably high. Many people had worked for many months on the co-ordination of the 178 floats in the parade, not to mention the work of thousands of parade participants. It was the wish of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to not let the hard work of all those involved go to waste and as such re-ordered the Parade.”

Bill Shorten’s office provided a statement to BuzzFeed, saying that Labor was not involved with the decision to move the NPID float.

Peter Fray

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