Australia police have urged people not to attend a Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney this weekend and warn attendees they will face charges or arrest if they take part.
Thousands have expressed interest in one particular rally on June 12, despite the fact it has been considered ‘unauthorized’ by police officials.
According to NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, protesters will be fined $1,000 if they participated in the protest in violation of public health orders, citing significant health and safety concerns with regards to the ongoing pandemic.
Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said it is highly possible a large crowd will try and gather outside Sydney Town Hall even though the rally is unauthorized.
Willing added that law enforcement would deploy “significant resources” to enforce the existing health order disallowing crowd gatherings, which could include police officers moving people on and possibly arresting them.
In addition, Willing also welcomed the NSW Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday night, June 11, to block a refugee rights protest scheduled for June 13. The protest, which was organized by the Refugee Action Coalition, was scheduled to happen at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday afternoon.
“While the NSW Police Force recognizes and supports the rights of individuals to exercise their right to free speech in normal circumstances, these are not normal circumstances,” Willing said in The Guardian.
“I want to be clear about this – if people choose to break the law and attend this protest, police will not hesitate to take the appropriate action against them.”
The Assistant Commissioner said that it simply wasn’t safe to hold such mass gathering during a pandemic. It comes after a man in his thirties developed symptoms 24 hours after the protest.
As per ABC News, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said that the man was “very unlikely” to have acquired the virus at the protest, he may have been infectious while there.
The man did wear a mask, but health officials are still frightened the virus might have been passed on to others.
Justice Michael Walton, who allowed the NSW police application for the protest to be declared a banned mass gathering, said public health risks outweighed “the rights of public assembly and free speech.”
Meanwhile, David Elliott, NSW police minister also agreed on the Supreme Court’s decision and said the public could expect to be arrested if they participated in the protest.
“I urge those thinking of protesting despite the Supreme Court decision and against the health advice to promptly reconsider their plans,” Elliott said.