A major Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney today, to protest police brutality against First Nations people, has been blocked from going ahead by the NSW Supreme Court after state police filed an action against it yesterday afternoon. The verdict came late in the evening on Friday, June 5, after Justice Desmond Fagan ruled in favour of the NSW police’s request for an injunction.
The move to block the protest cited public safety with regards to the ongoing health crisis as the principal concern. Currently, state rules do not permit gatherings of more than ten people in a public place. Estimates for the number of people expected to attend the rally ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 people.
Given the success of social distancing measures in containing the virus, Justice Fagan deemed that maintaining the current public health regulations outweighed the public’s right to protest, saying “The exercise of the fundamental right to assembly… is not taken away by the current public health order. It is deferred.” Fagan also said that, because local authorities had been given less than seven days' notice, the protest would legally require permission from the court to proceed, even without the additional complications of physical distancing and community transmission.
NSW police chief Michael Fuller has warned against demonstrators flouting the protest ban, warning that “all the police powers available to us [could] be used”, if large numbers of people breach the existing health orders.
Protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have erupted across the world, as unrest continues to mount in the US in the wake of the killing of Geroge Floyd, an African-American man murdered by four white police officers in Minneapolis on May 25. Earlier in the week, hundreds of people gathered in Sydney's Hyde Park to stage a protest in solidarity with similar marches happening across the US.