A group of about 30 men staged a Christian protest march at a popular entertainment district in Sydney’s inner west on Friday night, which police have confirmed was “unauthorized protest activity”.
The men were filmed marching down King Street in Newtown while praying and holding rosaries over their heads.
Footage of the protest was shared on the Facebook page of a group called Christian Lives Matter, with one member writing: “Huge turnout with the boys praying a mighty rosary in Newtown tonight. #christianlivesmatter”
Newtown is an LGBTQ+ hub, home to several popular bars that host drag shows, and the suburb has been the site of many Pride Inner West events this month amid WorldPride celebrations across the city.
Timothy Collis, who had dinner with friends in Newtown on Friday night, filmed the group as they walked by.
“When we got to the Marly Hotel, we saw a bunch of police officers in front of 30-40 men dressed in black … walking on the sidewalk and singing the Ave Maria,” Collis said.
“Everybody kind of realized what was going on with the religious chanting and the huge police presence that it was an anti-queer, anti-pride protest.”
Collis said the protest felt intimidating and his group of friends stayed at the hotel.
Writer and Newtowner Millie Roberts, who was also in the area, said the group tried to get into the Bank Hotel, which regularly hosts queer events, but was turned down.
“They went down and disrupted, there were cops on both sides carrying them out,” Roberts said. “It was very tense.”
New South Wales Police said in a statement officers were present in King Street, Newtown, around 8pm on Friday night for “unauthorized protest activity”.
“Police spoke to a group of about 30 people who were marching down the footpath in King Street, Newtown, before dispersing just before 9pm. No arrests were made.”
The CLM group’s Facebook page contains several posts criticizing LGBTQ+ activism and pride, with the page’s admin recently posting about Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s gay and lesbian Mardi Gras march.
“I won’t tell you who to vote for but this will show you who to make sure you never vote for again,” the caption read. What a sad day to be Australian.”
The site also features several posts about Network Ten program The Project, which aired a sexual joke about Jesus earlier this week.
Presenters Waleed Aly and Sarah Harris apologized the following night for offending Christian and Muslim viewers.
The group organized a Zoom meeting attended by 1,000 people after the joke aired, they said in a post.
“We’ve all had enough and last night’s show crossed the line with mocking our Lord Jesus Christ,” the group’s leader wrote.
“Everyone has to stand together and we have to put an end to this.”
Green Party MP for Newtown Jenny Leong slammed Friday night’s march as “shameful”.
“Our Newtown community proudly wears our diversity – and we celebrate differences,” she wrote on Twitter. “(That) is not welcome on our streets.”
Guardian Australia has contacted the Christian Lives Matter page and the Administrator for comment.
The administrator responded by forwarding a released statement accusing the media of posting defamatory comments about him.
“Last night I didn’t organize a protest or rosary in Newtown and I wasn’t even there, the police already know that… all I did was post the video.”