Stop the attack on the right to protest in NSW

| June 26, 2018 | Reply

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney unreservedly condemns the new powers to suppress gatherings on Crown Land that the NSW government will have from next week, and calls on everyone who values the right of public protest to unite in opposition to them.

The Crown Land Management Regulation 2018 (NSW), which comes into force on July 1, gives the government wide powers to disperse or ban protests, rallies, and other public gatherings across about half of all land across the state. This includes Hyde Park in Sydney, where refugee rights demonstrations are often held.

Refugee Action Coalition events are regularly the object of intimidation and obstruction from the NSW police force, most recently outside the ABC studios in Ultimo, where one of our members was arrested for no other reason than that she was holding a banner on an otherwise empty footpath. These new powers will substantially expand the police’s ability and willingness to suppress protest in this way. Whether or not they are immediately invoked, the powers’ capacity to intimidate protestors is clear.

These powers are worthy of a police state. Public protest is an essential civil liberty and democratic prerogative. The criminalisation of protest in Australia that the Crown Land Management Regulation effects is of a piece with the harsh consequences asylum-seekers themselves face for attempting to improve their conditions. It is no surprise that the party whose Federal members lock asylum seekers away and effectively ban public scrutiny of detention facilities are attempting to suppress the democratic expression of support for refugees in Australia.

We call on the NSW government to revoke the regulation immediately, and on everyone who values public protest as a central democratic prerogative to oppose it unconditionally.

Category: Statements

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