A lunchtime presentation at the Queen’s Birthday
Weekend in Melbourne
a conference/festival of radical sex and politics, on FRIDAY, 8th JUNE 2007
by Kendall Lovett.
1952: The very
first for me occurred in Sydney one weekday evening in January. I was with
my first lover and we were planning to escape from our respective families and
live together in Melbourne. Usually we met in a coffee shop after workbut
this particular evening it was warm so we decided to sit on the wide grass
verge bordering the Macquarie Street entrance to Sydney’s Botanical Gardens. It was later than
usual because I had been working overtime that week. Suddenly, we were lit up
by a bright light trained on us from a police car. What followed was very
disconcerting for two scared homos!
Two uniformed police got out of the car and advanced
on the two of us demanding to know what we were doing. Talking, I said. Stand
up! one of them commanded. We both did as we were told. You come with me, he
said to me. You go with him, he said to my friend. So we were separated not
knowing what was going to happen. What’s your name and where do you live?
What’s the other bloke’s name and what’s his address? How long have you known
him? What were you talking about? I complied and told him that we were going to
and were just making final arrangements. Okay, now get going, straight home, no
meeting up with each other. But of course we did at Wynyard rail station which
we both used. Apparently, my friend had been asked the same questions and had
answered them in similar fashion as I had. We went to live in Melbourne.
20years later, my next encounter occurred after , in William Street, Darlinghurst. I was on my way home which
at that time was in Woolloomooloo. I had left Melbourne at the end of 1960 to travel to London and meet up with my second lover who had
been transferred to London by his employer. I lived and worked there
until I returned to Sydney in 1968.
On my way down William Street I was followed by four young guys who
taunted me with “you’re a poofter … we know you …” etcetera. Before I reached Crown Street, where I lived, they left off badgering me
and turned down Palmer Street. I was relieved. However, as I started
Street the four of them darted across Crown Street and confronted me. They had slipped
through a side street. What happened then led to my next brush with police! They
advanced in a semi-circle which put me at a disadvantage with my back to a
building. The one menacing me put up his fist and let me see that he was
wearing some kind of metal glove. Split second thinking and I noticed that the
smallest of the four was the one barring my way back to William
Street, so I ran at him. He jumped
aside and I ran past him and out on to the centre of William
Street. Lucky for me the traffic at
that time of night was pretty thin. I knew police patrolled late at night in a
paddywagon in the area. So I waited in the centre of the road and sure enough
in less than 5 minutes I saw them coming down from the Cross. The four thugs
must have realised my intention so the four of them ran down into
Woolloomooloo. I flagged down the police and explained what had happened and
that I had no intention of going down to where I lived unless they could assure
me that the bashers would not see where I lived. The police suggested that I
follow the car as they drove down slowly. So I did. About halfway down they
stopped and I caught up. They’ve done a runner, one the cops said, so it’s safe
for you to go home.
1978: Nearly a
decade later in broad daylight on a sunny Sydney Sunday afternoon, August 27 to
be exact, in Oxford Street, I was arrested along with over 100 other lesbians
and gays from the 4th National Homosexual Conference which was being
held in the Paddington Town Hall protesting an anti-abortion rally in Hyde Park
by the Right-to-Life Movement and Fred Nile’s Festival of Light. I was carrying
a life size cardboard waist length cut-out, a dozen of which I had distributed
before about 300 of uscommenced the
protest march down the Oxford Street footpath.
The cut-outs had
various slogans lettered on them such as “GET YOUR LAWS OFF OUR BODIES,” “EVERY
WOMAN HAS A RIGHT TO CHOOSE,” “WHAT I DO IN BED IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS”
etcetera. Before I was arrested I saw a woman I knew with a popular ‘affro”
haircut dragged by her hair across Oxford Street by a burly cop. Then it became our turn!
Three women and I had linked arms and decided to go
back to the conference in the PaddingtonTown
Hall. I was closest to the road.
A single cop was heading towards us from across the road. He grabbed at me but
caught hold of the arm of the cardboard cut-out and ripped it off as I let go.
Then, approaching head-on in front of us were three or fourburly cops. One young woman managed to elude
them but the other two and myself were simply picked up bodily. The one who
held me dropped me down and grabbed the back of my belt, ripped my shirt and
hoisted me up and, as I struggled because it hurt, dragged me to a wagon and
threw me into it. I must have hit my head on the metal bar across the top of
door opening because, as one of the others in the wagon pointed out, blood was
trickling down my forehead. It was just a scratch though. The doors banged shut
and I discovered that there were ten others in the back but I was the only male.
One of the women said she had some experience of paddywagons in Brisbane.
They are going zigzag over the centre cement strip in the roadway on our way to
the station so we should stand-up and hang on to the metal mesh that covers the
sides and roof of this wagon. And she was so right. If we hadn’t done as she
suggested we would have been flung around inside and there would have been lots
more blood around than the little I had shed. We stopped at the Darlinghurst
lockup and left outside in the paddywagon for a couple of hours until someone
outside demanded to know how many of us were inside. One of us said ten women
and one man. We waited and waited. Ten minutes or more went by and then the
back door opened and I was ordered out and taken into the station. I think the
women were taken elsewhere. I was interrogated and pockets emptied and the
contents put in a paper bag. I was taken to a cell in which there were 20 other
gay men. One by one we were finger-printed by a cop who took great delight in
forcing each finger down almost to breaking point on the ink pad and then on to
the recording sheet. Then back to the cell. I had been arrested at about and was finally bailed out
at . It
was not a pleasant experience.
3 boys in blue keeping an eye or two on proceedings at a Sydney Protest.
Photo: Kendall Lovett, 1992
1979: On Friday,
26 January the charges laid against those of us arrested at Taylor Square (Oxford Street) on August 26th 1978 were withdrawn after protracted efforts by
lawyers, civil rights and gay rights activists. We were informed that we could
request the Commissioner of Police to destroy all records concerning our arrest
including finger prints and photographs. If we did not make the request the
police would retain all such records. I did so but asked that they be destroyed
in my presence. I had to front up to the Surry Hills Police Records Centre to
watch the shredding.
I arrived at the Records Branch on the date and time
specified and was taken to an area containing the usual filing cabinets and
several desks. I was shown some papers and asked to identify my name, age and
address and two sheets containing fingerprints. I had to assume they were mine
because the officer said so. He then took them to a shredding machine and switched
on the power. Very deliberately he held up each sheet for me to see. Then he
put them through the shredder and turned off the power. That’s all there is to
it, he said. I said: But how do I know you haven’t kept a copy? He looked at me
for a moment and then laughed: well you don’t, do you?
1979 a second time:
This time it was in Melbourne where my next brush occurred. The 5th
National Homosexual Conference was held there that year from 31st
August to 2nd September at the Universal Workshop in Fitzroy. I
stayed on for a few days holiday afterwards. I had been visiting an old friend
from the fifties in East
dinner at his flat. I suppose it would have been around 11.30pm when I was
walking back to The Victoria where I
was staying, along Lansdowne Street and had just turned into Treasury Place
when suddenly there was a police car beside me. What happened then brought back
memories of 1952 in Sydney. Do all police go to the same world-wide
One of cops leaned out of the police car, what are you
doing? I said walking! He opened his door and got out. Don’t be flippant!
What’s your name? I told him and that I was on holidays in Melbourne
and on my way back to the hotel. What hotel? I told him. Where have you been?
Out for dinner in East Melbourne.
You’re a visitor from where? Sydney,
I replied. When are you leaving Melbourne?
I said: At the end of the week. Right, now on your way and I suggest that you
don’t come walking through this area again at night while you’re in Melbourne.
1984: Back in
Sydney one Thursday night in April or May well before midnight, probably
arriving home after a Gay Solidarity meeting because I’d done some milk and
bread shopping in the city, unexpectedly a police car squealed to a stop beside
me and out jumped a cop and blocked my way. I had come from the city across Hyde Park, down behind St Mary’s Cathedral and was
about to turn the corner into a short street that led to my house on the next
corner. So what was this cop playing at? I soon found out. “Open your bag!”
What for? Open it or I’ll open it for you! It was a
shoulder bag. So I undid the top and pulled out a loaf of bread, holding it up
and then a carton of milk and some papers. He pulled the bag over and looked
in. Put them back! What’s your name and address. I told him and added, why did
you stop me? There have been some robberies from cars parked behind the
cathedral so we have to check people like you with bags. You can go now, and
got back into the car and drove off.No
1987: I wasn’t prepared
for this one in Sydney. A ‘phone call at work to tell me that I was required
to attend for an interview with a senior detective whose name I have now
completely forgotten at his office in Surry Hills. Back in 1982 at the National
Conference in Canberra, a workshop revealed that the Gay Solidarity Group
over the past few years had been receiving letters from prisoners claiming to
be gay or lesbian and seeking recognition and support from the group. It was
agreed that a meeting should be called in Sydney to explore some practical ways of
achieving a workable prisoners’ support group. Sasha Soldatow and I set up the
meeting in Glebe which failed to generate sufficient interest in the project
so, as I was handling the GSG correspondence, it was left to me to continue
being the contact for gay and lesbian prison inmates. I started a small
newsletter and called it Inside Out
and visited some of the prisoners who asked for visits. It was the fact that I
visited one such prisoner that led to the call and the interview which was to
check my reasons for visiting him, as well as my continued correspondence with
another long term prisoner who was held in a NSW country prison.
I fronted up at the big new Surry Hills station and
the detective I was to see came out and took me to his office. He said that
they had to do checks periodically on visitors to some prisoners. He asked me
how I came to know this particular prisoner. I explained about the group and
how wereceived letters from prisoners who said they
were gay and wanted support from us. We only visited a prisoner if he asked for
a visit. Otherwise we would write and send him a magazine or a paper. He wanted
to know if either of the two prisoners he named had asked me to contact any
specific person outside the prison. No, never! I was able to say quite
truthfully. It must have satisfied him because he apologised for taking up my
time and thanked me for being so frank. What I didn’t tell him though, was that
the two prisoners he was interested in were lovers and had been separated
because the prison officers were so homophobic
in their resentment of the partnership.
Probably the most important outcome for me was the
recognition that as a gay man I had the right to challenge laws that unjustly
affected me simply because I was not heterosexually oriented. It was my early
couple of brushes with police and thugs and what had happened to other gay
people elsewhere that made me decide on a course of action when I received a
notice in May 1978 from the Sheriff of NSW to say that I was liable for Jury
Service at any time during the following 3 years.
I decided to appeal against the Sheriff’s decision to
include my name on the Jury Roll.The reason I gave was that I was
prejudiced against the Crown because Sections 79-81B of the NSW Crimes Act
No.40 discriminated against homosexuals and exposed them to harassment,
intimidation and victimisation, and I went on to list sections of other NSW
Acts such as the Summary Offences Act that discriminate against minorities, and
provide police with arbitrary powers to arrest. I was summonsed to appear
before a Sydney
magistrate in the Court of Petty Sessions on the 3rd of January 1979
and argue my case.
My appeal was dismissed because the magistrate pointed
out that there was no provision in the Act to allow him to hear myappeal unless I was a person referred to in
the various schedules and I wasn’t. I asked before he dismissed the appeal that
he read my submission which outlined my reasons for appealing against jury duty.
He did. Afterwards, and off the record, he suggested that when I received the
next call to serve on a jury and attended court for the selection process, I
should ask to be excused and would then have to state my reasons before a judge
in another court. He said that he felt sure that the judge would probably find
my reasons compelling and would probably discharge me.
Sure enough I did get called and did exactly as he
suggested. I went before the Master in Equity at the Supreme Court in Sydney.
I had to wait in court until this judge had finished with other matters. Being
the Equity Court
there were many lawyers in the courtroom waiting for their cases to be heard.
My turn came and I told the judge that I was “prejudiced against the Crown” and
therefore should be excused from jury duty. He asked me what I meant. So I told
him I was homosexual and that the law discriminated against me and made of me a
criminal. I started to quote from the Crimes Act. He stopped me: telling me
that he didn’t need me to quote from the Act. He said he would direct that I be
called only for a jury in a civil case. I objected because I said if the case
was brought by an employer against an employee I would be prejudiced against
the employer because many employers would sack an employee if they discovered
him to be a homosexual. The judge looked really angry and told me: “You are not
fit to be on any jury.” And wrote something on a sheet of paper and ordered the
clerk of the court to take me to the office. Down at the office I was told that
I wouldn’t receive any payment for my attendance at court. Then the clerk asked
me what I had said to the judge for him to write such a note. I said, I’d like
a copy of the note. He said, sorry you’re not entitled to a copy. And that was that.
However, I felt vindicated because whatever the judge had written surely showed
that he was as prejudiced as any employer. I would love to have known what all
those lawyers in the courtroom had thought. KL.