Residents and supporters of the Common Ground social housing facility in Camperdown protested renting conditions and over-policing after their building was placed in a hard lockdown for two weeks after four tenants tested positive to COVID-19.
Residents revealed that the NSW Police, under the direction of NSW Health, were confiscating alcohol and searching packages delivered to the towers whilst tenants are in lockdown. This was confirmed by the Sydney Local Health District, which noted that some deliveries of alcohol were restricted to ensure the safety of health staff and residents.
Common Ground residents hung banners from their balconies while under hard lockdowns. Photo: Facebook/Aman Kapoor & Matilda Fay.
The building is run by Mission Australia and houses many tenants who have experienced long-term homelessness.
Residents asked those living within five kilometres of the building to show solidarity by bringing a rainbow or an Aboriginal flag to the protests and to exercise underneath the Common Grounds estate wearing purple or white. During the protests, tenants hung banners demanding an end to over-policing in their homes and the suspension of rent payments.
“They are treating us like suspects, like criminals. They are not giving us the benefit of the doubt,” one resident told City Hub.
“If this building was in an affluent area, I guarantee you this would not happen, the lockdown in the first place would have never happened.
“This is completely classist, and they are just doing this because we’re essentially poor, that’s what it comes down to.”
On Friday, the Common Group Action Group listed six demands on behalf of the residents, including rent-free accommodation for all residents in lockdown, a meeting with NSW Health and clarification of the COVID-19 situation in their building, immediate and respectful delivery of medicines and health care rollout and entertainment strategies for Common Ground residents.
The Camperdown community rallied around the residents. Photo: Facebook/Aman Kapoor & Matilda Fay.
On Friday, an open letter signed by legal and human rights groups including Amnesty International and Shelter NSW condemned the “inappropriate policing and unlawful searches imposed on residents of Common Ground.”
The legal and human rights groups called on all relevant authorities to “communicate proactively, clearly, frequently and respectfully with residents in this and any subsequent lockdowns”, to “respond to any reasonable demands from residents” and “work with communities to ensure that the lockdown is carried out in an appropriate way that is responsive to their needs and supports the public health objective.”
The groups also noted that the Public Health (COVID-19 self-isolation) and the Public Health Act 2010 do not provide express or implied powers for NSW Health or NSW Police to search or confiscate the belongings of individuals required to self-isolate or to impose limits on their consumption of legal substances.