Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney blocked after Supreme Court win for police

| 26.07,20. 09:03 PM |

Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney blocked after Supreme Court win for police

David Dungay's family say they will continue to fight for justice.(ABC News: Jack Fisher)

Police in New South Wales have won a Supreme Court bid to prohibit a Black Lives Matter march in Sydney and have warned people not to attend.

More than 4,000 people had indicated they would attend the gathering at Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller took rally organisers to the Supreme Court over concerns the demonstration would breach public health orders aimed at quelling the spread of coronavirus.

Supreme Court Justice Mark Ierace referred to the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission in NSW due to the resurgence in Victoria as one of his reasons for the decision.

"That current assessment of the level of risk, in spite of relatively low numbers of community transmission, is consistent with New South Wales presently being on the knife edge of a further escalation in community transmission of the virus," he said.

NSW Police issued a media statement, saying the protest is now unauthorised and people thinking of attending should reconsider.

"While the NSW Police Force recognises and supports the rights of individuals to exercise their right to free speech, large-scale events, such as these, are currently subject to restrictions under the Public Health Act," the media statement said.

"As such, police will not hesitate to take the appropriate action, if required."

Organisers intend to file an appeal against the decision.

Before the hearing, they declared the rally would go ahead regardless of the outcome.

Outside court, organiser Paddy Gibson said the march would go ahead after negotiations with police about arrangements for the Domain.

"We do not suspend democracy, we do not suspend the basic fight for justice that Aboriginal people have got going in this country just because there's a pandemic," he said.

"We can do everything we can to keep everyone as safe as we can — we will be safe on Tuesday, do not come if you have any symptoms at all.

"Make sure you wear a mask, make sure you comply with the regulations and stay distant but please, racism cannot be defeated by isolating in your house."

Mr Gibson said any plans for Tuesday's march would be subject to a court appeal and anyone attending would have to comply strictly with coronavirus restrictions.

"We have COVID safety teams that include people who have a lot of experience negotiating around health and safety in their workplaces through their unions," he said.

"Don't come on public transport if you can possibly avoid it, we're not seeking to clog the public transport system."

Organisers said they would be demanding justice for David Dungay Jnr, who died while being pinned to the ground by six officers at Long Bay Jail.

Traditional owner Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor said it was vital for the gathering to go ahead to signal the need for change in the police treatment of Aboriginal people in Australia.

"As people of colour we're all just saying enough is enough — we want to be treated as human beings and stop having all this violence and racism on us," she said.

"So we can't stop, we have to do this, we've got to see change."

David Dungay Junior's nephew, Paul Silva, said he was disappointed about the outcome of the court hearing today but would be appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal.

He is calling on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to request the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) investigate charges over his uncle's death in a prison cell in 2015.

"The reason we are protesting is because after five years not a single person has been held accountable for the death of my uncle," he said in a statement.

"The Police Commissioner could work with the DPP and Safework NSW to investigate my uncle's death and they could investigate whether charges could be laid — but they are refusing to do that."

There were claims that Commissioner Fuller did not follow correct processes after he announced the legal move in a radio interview.

Barrister Felicity Graham said Mr Fuller should have consulted with organiser Paddy Gibson before publicly declaring plans to take him to court during an interview on 2GB.

But Justice Ierace said the decision to take the matter to court was made by Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Stacey Maloney, and there was no evidence the Police Commissioner took part or tried to influence her decision.

Gatherings of more than 20 people are banned under COVID-19 regulations, but over a thousand people have indicated they would attend Tuesday's demonstration.

According to the Facebook event page, protesters are being asked to "wear masks" and to "keep a safe distance" from other rally attendees.

Despite claims to the contrary, Victorian health authorities have repeatedly stated that they have been unable to find a direct link between Black Lives Matter protests and the state's community transmission of COVID-19.

A previous Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Sydney in June resulted in no new cases of COVID-19.


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