He said interactions with police were “very common” and “you just had to live with it because that was the law.” The first Mardi Gras, in June 1978, was a “terrible experience” as police arrested the driver of the truck leading the parade. Charles himself was chased by “a policewoman with a baton.”
Charles matter-of-factly recounted a series of homophobic attacks in Sydney in which he was either a victim or a witness, including around a popular venue in Alexandria Park, a “hotspot” for the investigation. In one case, in the 1980s, he was beaten by a group of “maybe five” teenagers with PVC drainage pipes. He required stitches after a separate attack in 1988 by a young man who called him a “faggot.”
He rarely told police about the incidents, he said, because “help could not be expected.”
Brent Mackie, director of policy, strategy and research at ACON, formerly the AIDS Council of New South Wales, told the inquiry about his own experience of being punched in the head on Oxford Street on New Year’s Eve 1988. , describing a feeling of “inevitability.” about such an attack. He did not report the assault to the police.
“There was only one feeling; you wouldn’t necessarily go to the police,” Mackie said.
An ACON draft report dated November 1993 and titled Beats, police, homophobia and HIV: illuminating the ‘bleak world of gay beats’ was presented at the consultation.
It was based on a series of interviews with community workers, users and others between August 1992 and April 1993. It contained reports of “unnecessary surveillance” at the sites, including cases in Albury, Penrith and St Marys, where police allegedly brought men to light. their families or employers telling them that they had been “apprehended on the spot” or that they “were homosexuals”.
Mackie said that “it was quite shocking and devastating for the people involved.”
Mackie said he recalled ACON staff saying that “you could often get high-level support from the police, certainly that got stronger as we worked more with the police, but the specific police…at the level of station may take things into their own hands or have a different attitude.”
“That was very, very difficult,” he said. “Obviously things changed over time, but in those early days it was a big challenge.”
Former teacher and retired potter Les Peterkin, 88, testified that he went to see a psychiatrist at age 20 when his family pressured him to get married. The psychiatrist was very supportive, he said, explaining that homosexuality was not a disease.
He narrowly avoided being charged by police in 1956 with soliciting sex in a public place after being caught by a young officer in a public toilet in north Sydney. “Stricken with fear and worry,” he told police his father was a sergeant on duty at the Chatswood police station and the charges went no further.
The investigation continues.
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