GRACE JOHNSON: The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) has condemned the police’s “scare tactics” in the days leading up to the pro-Palestine rally.
Palestine Action Group had organised a peaceful rally which saw six thousand protestors assemble in Hyde Park this past Sunday. Roughly 1,000 officers were deployed around the city, including members of the riot, mounted and canine units.
President of NSWCCL Josh Pallas said, “It was outrageous that the primary threat to crowd safety was from the NSW police, who threatened to use extraordinary powers under s 87D of LEPRA, which are available when there is a threat of wide-spread public disorder. So-called police intelligence turned out to be completely unfounded. NSW Police and the Police Minister must explain how they got it so wrong.”
“The police claims that there was such a threat can only be seen as a scare and intimidation tactic in the lead up to the protest. The emergency powers should not be available to prevent a political protest,” he continued.
“The intense and large police mobilisation on the ground was another scare tactic aimed at intimidating overpoliced people who were demonised over the past week as posing a risk of violence by police and politicians.”
Speaking to City Hub, Mr Pallas from NSWCCL affirmed the right to protest, which sees an overlap of three components: freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.
On NSW Police’s response ahead of the protest, Mr Pallas said, “We don’t think it’s helpful when police respond in that way to protest because it’s a legitimate exercise of democratic rights and freedoms. And we think that a lot of the policing around protest is what we’ve called over-policing. It’s often pre-emptive policing.”
Mr Pallas discussed the police methods aimed at mitigating risk but also said “it’s becoming increasingly evident that perhaps we don’t do a good job of disagreeing, or disagreeing well, in society anymore. Or we have difficulty with feeling discomfort.”
“Protest is meant to be disruptive. Protest is meant to make people feel uncomfortable. Protest may at times be confronting for people.”
“If we want to live in a society where we have democratic rights and freedoms, we need to lean into that discomfort and accept that discomfort as legitimate speech act, so long as the protest remains non-violent, and there’s no hate speech.”
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