second defcon artwork for town hall rally
second defcon artwork for town hall rally

Protesters arrested at Town Hall, rally gets green light

A last-minute appeal to make a Black Lives Matter protest legal in Sydney has been successful.

The matter, which was heard in the NSW Court of Appeal at 2pm today, hinged on whether NSW Police had agreed to modifications to a document which outlined the increased size of the protests.

Michael Spartalis, barrister for the Commissioner of Police, told the court "there was no agreement to that proposal" by police.

Thousands of people outside Sydney Town Hall at the Stop All Black Deaths in Custody Protest. Picture: Damian Shaw
Thousands of people outside Sydney Town Hall at the Stop All Black Deaths in Custody Protest. Picture: Damian Shaw

The court disagreed at 2.45pm and ordered that the protest is a "legal assembly".

After the Supreme Court last night decided not to authorise the rally, organisers this morning lodged an eleventh hour appeal with in three NSW Court of Appeal judges to decide to the matter.

Crowds of people at the Sydney protest. Picture: Damian Shaw
Crowds of people at the Sydney protest. Picture: Damian Shaw

Supreme Court Justice Des Fagan refused to acknowledge the legal status of the planned rally on the grounds there had been insufficient notice of a changed route and that the health risks relating to the COVID-19 pandemic outweighed the right to protest.

Two people were arrested at Town Hall railway station ahead of the protest. Trains were not stopping at Town Hall ahead of the rally.

Police prepare to remove a protester at Sydney Town Hall today. Picture: David Swift
Police prepare to remove a protester at Sydney Town Hall today. Picture: David Swift

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge, who is working with the organisers, said the appeal followed advice from the legal community that the court decision was flawed.

"There has been a groundswell of support from the legal community," he said.

"The advice they have given organisers is that there were significant legal flaws in the decision that amount to jurisdictional error."

 

 

 

 

The move triggered condemnation from NSW Police Minister David Elliott, who accused Mr Shoebridge of inciting violence.

Mr Elliott, who is holed up at the Sydney Police Centre with senior officers, said the protest risked the health and welfare of the community.

"As honourable as the cause may be, the actual protest is risking the health and welfare of the community," Mr Elliott said.

"They should have delayed it. If they want to do it, that's fine, but even veterans have had to delay ANZAC Day commemorations until Remembrance Day. If veterans have been forced to defer annual reunions, I just don't know why commonsense didn't prevail."

The crowd at the Black Lives Matter rally in the Sydney CBD erupted after a man stood in the middle of a crowd with a sign stating "all lives matter".

 

 

The man stood on the steps of Town Hall this afternoon as hundreds of people yelled black lives matter in a peaceful demonstration.

He held up a cardboard sign with the words "black white" crossed out and words "all lives matter" underneath.

A protester gets his point across at today’s rally. Picture: Matrix
A protester gets his point across at today’s rally. Picture: Matrix

The crowd started calling for him to leave and that this was not the right forum for his protest. The man was jostled out of the crowd before police jumped in and escorted him down George St.

He was led into a chocolate shop in the Queen Victoria Building and surrounded by police officers, who escorted him out of the area.

Police patrol Sydney’s Town Hall today. Picture Tim Hunter
Police patrol Sydney’s Town Hall today. Picture Tim Hunter

 

Protesters gather at Sydneys Town Hall despite the Supreme Court ban. Picture Tim Hunter
Protesters gather at Sydneys Town Hall despite the Supreme Court ban. Picture Tim Hunter

About 30,000 people have expressed an interest in attending the march, although some government sources believe numbers will be lower.

Among those to attend include former Stop All Black Deaths in Custody protest organiser Raul Bassi who said he could not stay silent about the 432 indigenous deaths in custody since the findings of a royal commission into the issue were released in 1991.

 

A protester holds up sign as crowd descends on the Town Hall. Picture: Matrix
A protester holds up sign as crowd descends on the Town Hall. Picture: Matrix

 

"I have been involved in the Aboriginal struggle for too many years not to march," Mr Bassi said.

"I am not asking anyone to come but I am not stopping anyone to come.

"We need to keep up the fight against Aboriginal deaths in custody and recognise Aboriginal pain and suffering."

The Aboriginal rights activist has previously organised protests denouncing Australia Day, which he calls "Invasion Day", where tens of thousands of protesters marched peacefully down Sydney streets.

"We wanted to hold a rally that we could control, but they decided we couldn't because of pressure from politicians who claimed there would be violence," he said.

"The way we were going to run the rally, there was never going to be any violence."

Hundreds turned out to the George Floyd rally in Victoria Square, Adelaide. Picture: Brenton Edwards
Hundreds turned out to the George Floyd rally in Victoria Square, Adelaide. Picture: Brenton Edwards

The protest organiser claims he had fruitful discussion with Sydney City Police all week about the terms of the rally, which were finally mutually agreed upon on Thursday night.

According to Mr Bassi, the only compromise rally organisers could not accommodate was a request to bring the march forward from 3pm to midday because Aboriginal elders from Kempsey and Newcastle had already booked coaches.

"I talk to the police, who I know well, and we negotiated all week," he said.

"The Sydney City Police sent me their final terms on Thursday night and I sent an email back agreeing to them.

"The problem has never been with Sydney City Police, we were all in agreement with the terms of the rally."

In response to concerns protesters could spread COVID-19, Mr Bassi said organisers had arranged for marshalls to hand out masks and hand sanitiser.

The rally comes amid an about-face from Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who initially advised protesters to be "COVID-safe".

By last night, amid criticism of the rally by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, the Premier had taken a different stance, describing the planned rally as "flagrant disregard of the health rules".

Originally published as Protesters arrested at Sydney Town Hall, rally gets green light

Protesters gathered outside Sydney Town Hall before 3pm in defiance of the Supreme Court ban. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Protesters gathered outside Sydney Town Hall before 3pm in defiance of the Supreme Court ban. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Police lead the man away from the protest. Picture: Tim Hunter
Police lead the man away from the protest. Picture: Tim Hunter

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