by ALEC SMART
In dramatic scenes involving an hysterically crying young child, a woman protesting outside the NSW Parliament in central Sydney on 9 May was arrested by NSW Police officers and taken into custody. Video footage of the incident, taken via mobile phone and uploaded to YouTube, polarised public opinion as some labelled her actions ‘selfish’ for involving her child, while others condemned the alleged heavy-handedness of the arresting officers.
The boy, identified on the arrested woman’s Facebook page as her 4-year-old son Izak, who at the end of the video is seen struggling in the arms of a policeman while his mum is bundled into a mobile cell wagon, became hysterical with grief. This is what makes the film footage particularly upsetting to watch.
Right or wrongs?
The woman, Renee Altakrity, 36, was part of a demonstration of around 40 people calling on authorities to relax restrictions enforced to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The protest, organised by the Exercising My Rights campaign group, took place outside the NSW Parliament on Macquarie Street.
Ms Altakrity participated wearing a yellow placard with the hand-drawn slogan: “If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any. Magna Carta.” (Magna Carta is a charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, England, on 15 June 1215 agreeing to cede some power from his monarchy to a group of rebel barons. It was annulled shortly afterwards by Pope Innocent III and thereafter weakened by King John’s successors although it influenced the formation of the American Constitution in 1787).
The Exercising My Rights campaign group, according to their webpage, believe the Covid-19 lockdown laws are unreasonable. The webpage cites doctors around the world who compare the coronavirus outbreak to influenza, and provides links to ‘unreliable data’ that suggests most of the worldwide Covid-19 casualties had pre-existing medical conditions or were politically-motivated exaggerations.
A statement on the Exercising My Rights webpage by organiser Victor Tay reads: “These lockdowns have stripped us of our basic liberties in an unprecedented way. And if you don’t consent, you can’t even exercise your right to protest. But the Laws in NSW, Australia, do allow me to go out and get some exercise. So, that’s what I’m going to do.
“While these lockdowns are in effect, every Saturday from 2:00 – 4:00 pm, I’m going to exercise by walking around our state parliament house.”
In the controversial video of Exercising My Rights’ 9 May demonstration, Ms Altakrity is heard remonstrating with four NSW Police officers, saying “You guys are public servants, you should be serving the public. You’re not serving the public now. You took an oath under Constitutional Law to defend the public but you’re not doing that!”
Claiming she has been “infringed with a notice” she doesn’t consent to – Ms Altakrity then refuses to give her name. When she asks if she’s under arrest or being detained, the senior policewoman conducting the inquiry replies, “No, I’m just trying to speak to you… I’m asking for your name because I do believe you’re committing an offence; do you understand that?”
After further discussion, including Ms Altakrity’s announcement to the four NSW Police officers, “I’m not just fighting for my child, I’m fighting for your children too”, the video shows her walking away. Then it cuts immediately to a scene of Ms Altakrity being held on the forearm by the aforementioned female police officer while a male officer takes her other arm.
Thereafter the video takes a dramatic turn as Ms Altakrity struggles to remain in position, and her young son screams “Mummy’s not going! Mummy’s not going!” whilst an off-camera woman’s voice keeps asking “Why is she under arrest? Why is she under arrest?” as other protestors draw near to film the incident with their mobile phones.
According to the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, under sections 11 and 14, NSW Police can require you to produce identity documents if they suspect, on reasonable grounds, you have a connection to an indictable offence – such as an illegal protest or criminal activity. ‘Identity’ means your real name or residential address (or both).
A person who is required by a police officer to disclose his or her identity must not, without reasonable excuse, fail or refuse to comply with the requirement. Under Section 12 of the Act it is an offence to fail or refuse to provide ID when sought, under the aforementioned section 11, and the offence carries a maximum penalty of $220.
Which means Ms Altakrity, one of two adults arrested at the gathering, was legally obliged to give her name and address before walking away.
On 10 May City Hub received a statement from NSW Police on the incident: About 2pm yesterday (Saturday 9 May 2020), officers from Sydney City Police Area Command attended Macquarie Street and monitored a group of people who were conducting an unauthorised protest.
“By 3pm, the group had grown to about 40 people and were not exercising adequate social distancing, so officers soon began speaking with members of the group explaining they were not authorised to protest and were also not complying with current Ministerial Directions under the Public Health Act, with many being issued warnings and move-on directions.
“About 3.50pm, police again spoke with a woman, in company of a child, who told officers she was ‘exercising’. After she refused to give officers her details and would not comply with their direction to move on, police arrested the woman; however, she resisted, and a struggle ensued.
“During the struggle, the 36-year-old woman picked up her young son and continued to argue and resist police. The child was removed from the woman’s hold and she was taken to Surry Hills Police Station, where her identity was established, and she was issued an infringement notice for fail to comply with noticed direction in relation to s 7/8/9 – COVID-19.
“The child was placed in the care of a relative and the Department of Family and Community Services were notified…”
The following information also appears on the NSW Police website detailing the latest Public Health Act charges and Penalty Infringement Notices:
“About 2pm, officers from Sydney City Police Area Command attended Macquarie Street and spoke with a group of people who were conducting an unauthorised protest. A 36-year-old women was arrested after refusing to provide her details. She was unable to provide a reasonable excuse for being there and was later issued a $1000 PIN.”
Ms Altakrity, a self-described ‘anti-vaxxer’ (opposed to all vaccinations) who works in Chipping Norton for an English-based cosmetic surgery company called Flawless Features, which specialises in Botox injections, skin peels, eyeliner tattoos and dermal fillers, has strong opinions concerning the coronavirus.
In Facebook posts she has described people who are self-isolating as “sheeple” and shares campaign videos opposing the installation of 5G mobile phone towers. 5G (fifth generation radio waves for cellular phones and internet technology) opponents claim that the novel coronavirus Covid-19 originated in Wuhan because the Chinese city had recently begun installation of 5G towers. They further claim the virus has spread globally to other cities that are also using 5G, although many of the world’s worst-affected areas have never been exposed to 5G radio waves.
Ms Altakrity has also posted a video by Know Your Rights – tied to the ‘Great Australian Party’ that opposes immigration and is linked to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party via its former treasurer, Ian Nelson – which insults NZ Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern as a “baby killer” and insists Covid-19 “is yet to be proven to be any worse than the standard ‘flu.”
Among the more deluded conspiracy theories promoted by Know Your Rights, which, like Ms Altakrity, also oppose vaccinations, is their claim that the 1996 Port Arthur massacre of 35 people by deranged gunman Martin Bryant “was a contrived event designed purely to disarm the Australian public.” They also insist that the 9-11 terrorist event in Sept 2001, when two passenger jets were hijacked and crashed into Manhattan’s World Trade Towers by Al Qaeda terrorists, was a “false flag event.”
On 2 April Ms Altakrity launched a Change.org petition calling for “Human rights, no to vaccine and 5g… we are being abused and stood on”, which she promoted on her Facebook page with the following statement:
“This is ALL bullshit guys. Seriously, lock us up like a pack of sheep. Enforce an injection of poison so called a vaccine, install 5g towers which are highly radioactive and damaging our bodies and then sell us on a cocknbull story that we need to move forward in the future and insert microchips to better track our health status which will only take away every drop of privacy and human rights (thats not to mention the currency)..
In a few years time we will also be told we have a Corona Tax to repay the billions of so called ‘stimulus packages’?”
The petition attracted no signatures whatsoever in the following five weeks, then five signatures in the 24 hours after she was arrested and appeared on YouTube, where supporters describe her as a “warrior” and ‘brave”.
Ms Altakrity’s arrest video is now being shared across USA where far-right religious and racist groups under the hashtag #preservereligiousfreedom are disseminating it. This nutty network is alleging it is further ‘evidence’ of an international conspiracy to deny the bizarre coalition of anti-vaxxers, 5G conspiracy theorists, survivalists, racists and fundamentalist Christians from socialising ‘normally’ … and spreading Covid-19.