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Sydney protest “selfish”, says commissioner

Protesters wearing face masks at the Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney in June. Photo: Allison Hore

By ALLISON HORE

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has moved to block a Black Lives Matter protest amid concerns about the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Mr. Fuller says the protest, scheduled to take place in Sydney on Tuesday July 28, would be “devastating to anyone’s cause” if it were found to be the cause of the next COVID-19 cluster and urged people not to attend the rally.

“It is not a time to be selfish, there are many ways you can protest, there are many ways you can go online, in forums or even through the media you can get your voice,” he said in an interview with Sky News on Monday.

Rally organisers have filed a formal application for the protest but Mr. Fuller says NSW Police will go to the supreme court to block the application after early estimates indicate upwards of 1000 people would be in attendance, with an additional 3000 registering their interest. He added “win, lose or draw” the Supreme Court case, police officers would still be issuing fines to those in attendance.

“We will then use the health orders to fine people for breaching the laws put in place to protect all the people of NSW,” he said.

“If a thousand people turn up maybe I can only write tickets for 500 people but do you want to be the first person to get the $1000 ticket, that’s the question.”

Despite threats from police to fine attendees, rally organisers say the protest will go ahead and measures will be taken to ensure the event is COVID-safe.

“We believe we can hold a protest that is COVID safe, certainly as safe as many commercial activities happening in Sydney every day, involving thousands of people congregating in shopping centres, marketplaces (and) sporting grounds,” rally organiser Paddy Gibson told the Today Show.

“The prime minister attended a football ground with thousands of people last weekend.”

The protest was organised to call for justice for Dhungutti man David Dungay Jnr who died in Long Bay jail after his cell was raided by riot police. A coronial inquest in 2019 deemed the cell raid unnecessary and improperly authorised. It comes as part of a broader movement of protests around the world calling on governments to step up against police violence on black communities.

NSW police also took organisers of a similar Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney in June to the Supreme Court in a bid to block the event from taking place. The bid to ban the event was successful, but protesters turned up on the day prompting the ban to be binned just minutes before the scheduled start time of 3:00pm. There were no confirmed instances of community transmission at the June rally.

Rally organisers have asked people not to attend if they “have any cold or flu-like symptoms” and to maintain “strict social distancing of 1.5m”. Organisers will also be providing masks on the day.

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