NSW Police are investigating an officer who was photographed on the night of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade wearing a ‘Thin Blue Line’ patch on their uniform, a pro-law enforcement symbol that’s come to represent a backlash against Black Lives Matter protests.
On Saturday, attendees of the Pride in Protests march spotted a NSW Police officer wearing the controversial patch during an interaction with police in Hyde Park, Sydney.
Twitter user @UnionSlug shared images of the officer to social media on Saturday evening.
“Please explain this patch, @nswpolice? Is officer J Smith (Sydney cbd) wearing a nsw police sanctioned uniform modification for Sydney Mardi Gras,” she tweeted.
— AL (@UnionSlug) March 6, 2021
A NSW Police Force spokesperson told Business Insider Australia that they are looking into it.
“The NSW Police Force is aware of reports of an officer wearing a patch which is not part of the standard NSWPF uniform. Officers from Quakers Hill Police Area Command are making inquiries into the matter,” they said in an emailed statement.
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras did not respond to a request for comment.
Thin Blue Line and Black Lives Matter
The Thin Blue Line symbol typically takes the form of a black and white version of the country’s flag with a blue, horizontal stripe through the middle.
While it has existed for some time, the symbol has recently been adopted by Blue Lives Matter, a pro-law enforcement reactionary movement against Black Lives Matter.
Critics of the movement say that the Blue Lives Matters and its Thin Blue Line patch represents a rejection of police accountability during increased scrutiny of law enforcement’s treatment of racial minorities.
Merchandise with the symbol sold around the world is regularly spotted being worn by on-duty police officers, and has been used — not exclusively — by far-right extremists and white nationalists.
In September last year, Business Insider Australia reported that Australian police were promising to ignore orders to stop wearing Thin Blue Line symbols on their uniforms, after Victorian Police higher-ups instructed them to stop wearing them.
Queensland Police also said they were cracking down on officers wearing the symbol after one was spotted wearing it at a Black Lives Matter protest during the same month last year.
Police opposition to the Pride in Protest march
Saturday afternoon’s Pride in Protest march was organised “to bring back the proud protest roots of Mardi Gras and fight collectively against systems and structures that maintain injustice,” the group’s Facebook Page said.
The march — which called attention to Indigenous deaths in custody, refugee mandatory detention and sex work criminalisation — was at first opposed by NSW Police, but was given a public health exemption at the eleventh hour before a hearing in the NSW Supreme Court.
On Monday, Pride In Protest organisers released a statement condemning the officer for wearing the Thin Blue Line patch.
“The Thin Blue Line patch is such a blatant hate symbol that even the Victorian Police, draconian as they are, were forced to recognise it as such. Three other officers in the vicinity heard the exchange regarding the patch, and all of them stayed silent. Shame on Smith and NSW police force,” the group said in a Facebook post.
Twitter user @UnionSlug, who asked not to be identified by Business Insider Australia, said that a police officer’s choice to wear an anti-Black Lives Matter symbol at the event was particularly galling, given the history of the event.
“When it was at an event that had intersectionality, had race relations as a big focal point, it’s not ideal,” they said.
This story first appeared on Business Insider Australia. You can read the original here.