The NSW Supreme Court has declared anti-protest laws invalid, a mere year after their enactment. These regulations were introduced in response to activists obstructing traffic on the Harbour Bridge and disrupting freight lines from the world's largest coal port in Newcastle.
Also supported by the Labour party, these laws targeted protests causing interference with "major economic activity," imposing hefty fines of up to $22,000 or sentences of two years in prison. Since their implementation, activists and legal and human rights experts have criticised that these laws are excessively harsh, infringing upon a fundamental human right. Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the unprecedented increase in police authority in NSW resulting from these laws.
In November 2023, over 100 individuals were apprehended under the controversial laws. During a recent 30-hour blockade at the Port of Newcastle, a 97-year-old man and five children were among those taken into custody.
During this protest, social media posts documented the use of kettling formations by the police. These formations involved encircling protestors and applying significant force, ultimately causing a fence to collapse as they were pressed against it.
Anastasia Radievska of Legal Observers NSW has stated “The way the police approached [this protest] didn’t account for the profile of the crowd or vulnerabilities of the people there and put people at risk unnecessarily.”.
Several NSW Council of Civil Liberties legal volunteers in high-vis clothing were among those arrested, which the council’s president Lydia Shelley said “risks sending a dangerous message to the public that NSW police do not want their interactions or conduct with peaceful protestors monitored by independent organisations. It also further strains the already deteriorating relationship between NSW police and segments of our communities”.
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