NSW Police have arrested six protestors at the Black Lives Matter rally in The Domain, Sydney after the event was deemed illegal by the NSW Supreme Court.
Five of the six arrested protestors were handed penalty infringement notices while organiser Paddy Gibson was arrested and placed in the back of a police vehicle before the event began. Organisers cancelled the rally once move-on orders were issued by police.
NSW Police took the event organisers to court over the planned rally and on Sunday the NSW Supreme Court deemed the protest illegal. Event organisers then appealed the decision in the NSW Court of Appeal however the appeal was subsequently dismissed.
Despite the court’s decision to prohibit the gathering, the rally remained scheduled for Tuesday at 12pm.
After the protest NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said NSW Police is “not anti-the right to protest.”
“This is about public safety. At the end of the day, we are in the middle of a pandemic,” said Assistant Commissioner Willing in a press conference.
Currently, in NSW only 20 people are authorised to attend outside gatherings under COVID-19 restrictions, whereas 500 are authorised to attend indoor gatherings.
Black Lives Matter rally organiser, Paddy Gibson, responded to concerns of COVID-19 safety at the rally on Network Ten’s program, The Project. Gibson said:
“Here in New South Wales you’re allowed to have an un-ticketed, unseated, gathering of 500 people indoors, but you’re not allowed to gather more than 20 people outdoors.”
“This is a political decision made by the government to try and stop protests and try and stop the Black Lives Matter protest in particular.”
“These particular regulations were designed in the wake of the mass demonstrations and there has been a devastating effective political campaign to try and keep people off the streets [when it comes to] Black Lives Matter because it strikes at the heart of the injustice that is in the Australia political system.”
Human rights activist Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts was also present at the rally this afternoon. She was detained by police and later took to Twitter after her release, writing:
I have been released and it is all on footage me complying with Covid-19 and police abusing their powers once again.The last time I was handled by police with hands put behind my back was the night they removed me. The police did not comply with 1.5 Covid-19 restrictions.
— Nessa Turnbull-Roberts (@TurnbullVanessa) July 28, 2020
The rally was focused on justice for David Dungay Jr, an Aboriginal man who died in custody in 2015 after being held down by corrective services officers. Turnbull-Roberts tweeted on Monday the rally would be disbanded if an investigation into his death was launched.
Tomorrow’s black lives matter protest will not go ahead if the NSW premier seeks an investigation into the death of David Dungay jnr who was murdered in long bay correctional facility where no charges have been laid on the officers responsible. Accountability now!
— Nessa Turnbull-Roberts (@TurnbullVanessa) July 27, 2020
On Tuesday afternoon the family of Dungay Jr presented a petition of over 100,000 signatures to the NSW Government. The petition calls for charges to be laid against the guards involved in his death.
The heavy policing of Tuesday’s rally follows the Black Lives Matter rally in June which saw NSW Police pepper spray a group of 40 to 60 people, including children, in Sydney’s Central Station. This action was taken after the protest was deemed legal by the Supreme Court.
By Rachael Knowles