By ALLISON HORE
Two protesters were arrested at a transgender rights rally in Sydney’s Taylor Square on Saturday. The “kill the bill” rally was organised in opposition to a set of legislation to strip schools of educational content relating to transgender and gender diverse people.
The Education Legislation Amendment bill proposed by One Nation’s Mark Latham would “outlaw gender fluidity teaching, course development and teacher training” in NSW schools.
Saturday’s rally against the bill was deemed unauthorised to go ahead in a Supreme Court decision on Friday. The court ruled in favour of police, who had hoped to block the protest, citing COVID-19 health and safety orders. But organisers, Community Action for Rainbow Rights, announced later that same day the rally would go ahead as planned.
Before 1pm on Saturday, when the rally was due to start, there was a small group of activists gathered in Taylor Square and heavy police presence. When it hit 1pm, dozens of people emerged from the bars around the square to join the protest chanting “out of the bars and into the streets.”
Two speakers took to the stand before police ordered everyone to move on. Greens member for Newtown, Jenny Leong, was due to speak at the event but wasn’t able to. On Sunday morning she took to facebook to express her support for the cause with a recorded video.
“It is nothing short of bullying by Mark Latham who represents One Nation in the NSW Parliament,” Ms. Leong said of the proposed bill.
“We will not allow this bullying to go on and be silenced by the police when we are trying to stand up for trans rights and trans human rights in this state.”
When introducing the bill before parliament Mr. Latham said “promotion of gender fluidity” was akin to child abuse and “the Parliament should legislate to defend the family unit and the biological science of gender.”
If the bill passes, teachers, counsellors and other school staff could face dismissal if they offered support or advice to transgender and gender diverse students. Parents would also be allowed to withdraw their children from any class where LGBTQIA+ issues were discussed.
“Excessive over policing”
After police issued move on orders to the gathering at Taylor Square, the protesters made their way down Oxford Street towards Hyde Park. When the crowd reached Hyde Park police forced everyone to disperse. Protesters who did not comply with orders to leave the gathering were slapped with on the spot fines of $1000.
Overall, thirteen trans rights protesters face fines. Eleven were issued $1000 on-the-spot fines and two were arrested.
“People were fined, some people arrested, and we were subject to an excessive over policing of what was a peaceful protest,” said. Ms. Leong.
“Everyone was wearing masks, as much as possible people were trying to social distance. And certainly it was no more risky than what I’ve seen in shopping centres, in markets, and people going to football matches in the last little while.”
Protest organisers say the COVID-19 safety plan they had designed, which included free rainbow face masks and appropriate social distancing, was not able to be properly implemented as heavy police presence compacted the rally into a smaller space.
“We oppose this draconian use of fines to scare activists from fighting against bigotry and oppression,” protest organisers said.
“And we oppose the presence of police forces during protest, who demonstrated little concern for COVID Safety and were a barrier to us carrying out our plan.”
Ms. Leong said while she is disappointed she was not able to deliver her address on the day she was pleased to see so many had turned out in defiance of police orders.
“We have a right to peaceful protest in NSW, we have a right to engage in peaceful assembly and to express our views publicly. And we need to keep doing that,” she said.
“It was wonderful to see a crowd of people so passionate about equality and so caring about what’s going to happen for young people in our education system if we don’t stop this horrific bill.”
Over 80,000 people have signed a petition in opposition to Latham’s bills. Petition organiser, Sam Guerra, encourages people to keep signing the petition and to write letters to parliamentarians to oppose the bill.
“We are a progressive society and we welcome all kinds of gender identity and sexualities and this should be celebrated, not hidden in the closet anymore, especially in such a safe and accepting space where children spend most of their developing years,” Sam said.
Protest organisers have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the fines. In less than 24 hours the fundraiser had already reached $12,000 of the $15,000 target.