NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has taken the Keep Sydney Open group to the Supreme Court over their plans for a protest in Kings Cross.
Keep Sydney Open organiser Tyson Koh says he was told about the Friday court hearing on Thursday evening and scrambled to find “a silk, two barristers and two solicitors” by the next day. Police argued Keep Sydney Open hadn’t properly planned for the event and pointed to a lack of security, traffic planning and mass evacuation and crowd dispersal plans. But Koh’s lawyers argued police had never asked for these things during the permit application process.
Judge Geoff Lindsay considered both perspectives but ultimately sided with the police, in making a prohibition order to stop the protest going ahead.
The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks says while protesting is generally legal, there are some conditions.
“The law is that you should give the police seven days notice of an intention to hold a public assembly or protest,” he told Hack.
“If you have given the seven days notice you cannot be prosecuted for causing obstruction. You’ve got that immunity unless the commissioner of police applies to the Supreme Court in order to prohibit the assembly,” said Blanks.
And once it’s in court, it can go either way.
"There have been occasions where protests have been planned around important international events and the court has been reluctant to allow protesters that would potentially interfere with those kinds of events.”
Stephen Blanks says there “isn’t any exact criteria” for the court to apply.
“On this occasion the court has succumbed to police pressure and the public safety line. We’ve seen that a few times in the last couple of years."
“Unfortunately (you) have no legal protection under the Summary Offences act for causing obstruction. So yes people can turn up and protest but they have to do it in a way that doesn’t cause obstruction to anyone else,” said Blanks.
“There’s no law about holding a sign. So it would be an interesting test if people do go to the area where the protest was to be held and do want to deliver a message."
In a statement, a spokesperson for the NSW Police Force said they were committed to working with all protest groups but they were not just concerned about safety - they were also taking into account any possible impacts on businesses and residents.
Source: ABC (Triple J-Hack)