SMH: Pro-Palestine protesters won’t ‘commandeer Sydney streets’, says Minns

Olivia Ireland and Michael Koziol: Premier Chris Minns’ declaration that pro-Palestinian activists will not be allowed to “commandeer our streets” has triggered a fresh brawl about the right to protest in NSW, as the government tries to counter days of criticism over its handling of Monday’s rally in Sydney.

But lawyers and civil liberties groups are deeply concerned by a range of remarks by government members advocating restrictions on protests. In an open letter to Minns, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties was joined by Amnesty International Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and the NSW National Tertiary Education Union in calling on the premier to affirm his government’s support for the right to protest.

“The right to protest has already been eroded enough in this state and politicians should not be given licence to erode it further,” the letter said.

Barrister Greg Barns, who represents the Australian Lawyers Alliance on human rights and free speech matters, noted rallies of all types could be hijacked by unsavoury or criminal groups and individuals, but restrictions on demonstrations ought to be narrowly drawn.

“The better approach is not to interfere with the right to protest but use existing laws to prosecute those who incite racial hatred or advocate or assist terrorist organisations,” he said. “Those cases ought to be prosecuted with vigour.”

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