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May 16, 2021

Freedom’s limit tested

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Despite a lack of support from Bundjalung woman Delta Kay, and condemnation by police, hundreds of protesters marched up Jonson Street on Saturday. At the Peace Pole near the Surf Club, speakers questioned the validity of COVID-19 lockdowns, border closures, government interventions and mandatory vaccinations.
Photo Jeff ‘Relatively Free Since 1986’ Dawson

Hans Lovejoy

Saturday’s march from Railway Park in the name of freedom resulted in nine arrests and charges laid for breaching Public Health Orders, assaulting police (x1), resisting arrest and hindering police.

The march was part of a national day of gatherings, which saw arrests and scuffles with police in Sydney.

The COVID-19 related Public Health Order is made under section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010, and reads, ‘People can participate in outdoor public gatherings of not more than 20 people’.

Det Chief Insp Matt Kehoe from Tweed Byron Police District told The Echo that police spoke with organisers several times prior to Saturday’s event and requested that the event be postponed or cancelled owing to the existing Health Minister’s order.

‘Organisers refused all reasonable requests by police’, he said.   

Health order hypocrisy

But organisers pointed to the hypocrisy of other public gatherings, which do not attract similar draconian measures.

One speaker told The Echo, ‘Brisbane’s march had no arrests and was held next to a football game’.

‘Byron’s night markets were setting up as we were leaving. According the these alleged directives, everyone in town was breaching them’.

March organisers promoted freedom of choice and speech, an end to mandatory vaccines and border closures. Website links supplied to The Echo by organisers were of private citizen/straw man movements.

The legal profession have described the movement as Organised Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments (OPCA).

Police disappointed

Det Chief Insp Kehoe added, ‘Police are very disappointed that the selfishness of a few people in organising this event may impact on the safety, health and economic recovery of the region’.

‘The people of Byron Bay and Northern Rivers have perhaps been impacted more than any in NSW with COVID-19 restrictions, given our region’s reliance on tourism.

‘People have worked hard and endured much to ensure our region has remained a safe and healthy environment. This has potentially been jeopardised by the selfish acts of those organising and attending Saturday’s event’.  

Meanwhile, Woody Sampson from Freedom Of Choice Alliance said, ‘The only thing I see good in life is one used in service to freedom’.

‘Otherwise, why are we waking up in the morning?

‘We’re here to let everyone know in Victoria we love them, in Byron and all of Australia, that we love them, and to let the police know we love them.

‘We want what they want. We want peace, we want harmony, we want freedom!’

Apology

The group of organisers added they wanted to extend an apology regarding the use of Aboriginal flags and colours used for the event.

They said, ‘An aunty talked us through why the colours used, and the name of the walk, was so offensive to some of the mob’.

‘The group came together in a very short space of time, and before we could invite Delta Kay, she had already denounced the event.

‘Both Uncle Lewis and Jarmbe stressed how important it was to have Delta do the Welcome to Country’.


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