Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters will march through Newcastle after police lose a Supreme Court bid to stop it due to health concerns
- The NSW police lost a judicial bid to end a protest against Black Lives Matter in Newcastle
- Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said the protest was an “unnecessary risk.”
- Dr Kerry Chant, NSW’s Chief Health Officer, said the event had a relatively low risk
A Black Lives Matter protest that will draw hundreds into Newcastle has been approved by the NSW Supreme Court.
The NSW police filed an application to ban the meeting on Thursday, scheduled to start in Civic Park on Sunday from 1 p.m. and are expected to draw about 500 people.
The court heard on Friday that the event will continue regardless of a decision, but that the defendant Taylah Gray, a 23-year-old Wiradjuri woman who is also one of the organizers, would withdraw if it were considered unauthorized.
Justice Christine Adamson said that Ms. Gray had worked with the police and that her presence was more likely to minimize the risk to public health from wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and physical distance.
A protest against Black Lives Matter will continue in Newcastle after NSW police make a failed Supreme Court bid to shut it down. Depicted are protesters in City Hall, Sydney
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant told the court via a video link that while the event was low risk, she was “vigilant” about the changing situation in Melbourne.
NSW Police Commissioner Max Mitchell said the Newcastle protest poses an “unnecessary and unacceptable risk” of coronavirus exposure, whether or not authorized.
“This is about police supporting health regulations within NSW and … enforcing health regulations for the safety of our community,” Mitchell told the court.
“We have no control over who comes to this public meeting.”
He said the request had not included any political pressure to ban the meeting and that the police would not make mass arrests.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant told the court via video link that while the event was low risk, she was ‘vigilant’ about the changing situation in Melbourne
Ms Gray said it was difficult to accurately predict how many people would come.
The final-year law student at Newcastle University said those who felt unwell, as well as other vulnerable people, were encouraged not to attend, while 18 volunteers would commit to implementing a coronavirus safety plan.
Out of court, Ms. Gray said it was important for the protest to continue with authorization, while the international Black Lives Matter movement was still moving forward.
“We are very happy with the outcome of the court and we are happy that they are on the right side of history,” she told reporters.
“I advocate for everything I am. It is very important – it is not only my interest, it is my essence. ‘
NSW Police Commissioner Max Mitchell said the protest in Newcastle poses an “unnecessary and unacceptable risk” of exposure to coronavirus. Depicted are police in City Hall, Sydney, during a recent protest
Ms Gray’s lawyer, Sidnie Sarang, said the decision meant that protesters could attend the action without the risk of a transfer order or fear of “too much police.”
She also said that the police appeared to unfairly target protests, while the relaxation of restrictions had caused casinos and stadiums to be reopened to the public.
“The question we need to ask ourselves is why freedom of speech should be compromised in this situation – why is it at risk for COVID and nothing else?” Ms. Sarang said.
Justice Adamson, who has not yet provided the reasons for her decision, assigned the costs to the applicant.
The protest was organized by the community group Fighting in Solidarity Towards Treaties.
Public gatherings are currently limited to a maximum of 20 people in NSW.
The protest in Newcastle now continues at Civic Park on Sundays from 1pm and is expected to draw around 500 people. Protesters depicted in Sydney