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March 3, 2021

Police double standard on show at Eat Street

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Crowds at Bangalow’s Eat Street last Friday. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Philippa Clark

Eat Street Bangalow was a resounding success – so much so that if Lisa Hunt, who has been running SummerStage, had been organising it, the cops would have been down there handing out fines like confetti.

The food was great, but the double standard shown by the conspicuously silent Tweed-Byron police left a bad taste.

Crowds at SummerStage earlier this month. Photo supplied .

Last week, the idea of a 500-person concert at Red Devil Park had the police throwing the book at organiser Lisa Hunt, delivering her a financial one-two punch. First she had to fork out for the User Pays policing service prior to the event, then she copped a $5,000 fine afterwards because police spotted concertgoers dancing in contravention of the COVID Safe plan.

Contrast that to the scene at Bangalow on Friday night.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 patrons attended the Bangalow Showgrounds over the four-hour event, with the local FoodWorks selling out of frozen pizza as people gave up and left the crowded crush.

Social distancing? What social distancing? Markers on the ground were invisible under the trampling feet and there wasn’t a QR code to be seen. If you weren’t elbowing your way through a queue, you were staking out a patch of grass big enough to sit down on, 1.5 metres be damned.

Luckily for us all, the chance of COVID-19 circulating with the cutlery was almost non-existent.

None of this is a reflection on the Eat Street organisers, who have clearly hit upon a hugely popular concept, and moved it from the public school to the showgrounds in anticipation of crowd numbers. They can’t control attendees’ behaviour, any more than Lisa Hunt could. Teething problems with crowds and queues just make the festival a victim of its own success.

My finger is firmly pointed at the Tweed-Byron police, who surveyed the scene and told organisers they were happy with the set-up.

Crowds at SummerStage earlier this month. Photo supplied .

Both SummerStage and Eat Street were outdoors. Both attracted rowdy crowds yelling to make themselves heard. Both even featured kids dancing around to the sweet stylings of local musicians. So why the police crackdown on SummerStage, one-tenth of the size of Eat Street? Could it be that the police have it in for any event that carries a whiff of young adult pheromones and loud music? Never…

Personally, I’d feel a lot more COVID Safe on a spontaneous open-air dancefloor than in an endless queue for curry with someone’s toddler chucking a tantrum inches away from my face.

It’s not the first time the double standard’s been on show either. It’s hard to justify the treatment of live music when 28,000 people can pack the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch the Big Bash League final.

And the police wonder why young people want to defund them. It’s time they looked in the mirror.

Find out more about SummerStage this Saturday and other events around the North Coast with the North Coast Gig Guide.

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  1. Great article, totally agree! Lisa is a wonderful person and an icon of Byron. They have treated her appallingly, it’s hard for her not to feel like it’s personal. They have driven her out of her beloved town, but there are so many people who love what she does and desperately want her to stay! Her music is synonymous with Byron. Her fine needs to be reversed and police work with small grassroots community events such as Summerstage to make it work for everyone. She was obviously doing something for the community in the best way she could, and this is the result.

  2. What a ridiculous piece of so-called ‘journalism’. It’s so biased it’s not funny. Did you think, perhaps, the police eased up after copping (pardon the pun) so much flack about Lisa Hunt’s fine? Or the fact you’ve ‘reported’ so many breaches at Eat Street Bangalow that the cops may now impose a retrospective fine because of your article? Probably not….

  3. Is it any wonder that people have zero respect for the police? Sporting events in NSW go right ahead with no consequences whatsoever. “Family events” like the Bangalow thing go ahead with no oversight at all. But when a highly respected musician tries to do something positive for the music community in Byron she’s hounded and harassed for reasons absolutely outside her control. It’s a disgrace.

  4. Look out Phillippa, honest reporters like you seldom remain in the hot seat.
    The constabulary find great disgust at any honest investigative observations like this.
    Now that the ‘Byron News’ has been crushed by the honest news, how long until the ‘fake news’ crushes this???
    Time will tell.
    (Good job, keep it up) 👍

  5. Yes there is also comparison to the ongoing local markets, but I do understand the Police’s dilemma, as Lisa event was purely bands which may attract live music hungry interstate attendance. The local markets and eat street is focused on locals and visitors who are here, but no body is coming interstate to them (and how can you stop dancing and moshing at a live music event, as best as it is managed, as evidenced by the breaches). Why the paid Police didnt stop the incidents to avoid the fine, seems very unfair.

    • The attendees are 95% local.. I know because I see the ticket reports and we have to have to keep records for contact tracing. the MAX is 500 people on a football field, and yet we had 2 paid police, licensing police, 4 security guards, 18 toilets, a four man traffic team and ambulance on site to satisfy the conditions imposed. no venue or club would satisfy those conditions. NONE.. leaving just over $400 for bands, technicians, electricians, cleaners and other staff.

  6. Sounds like a double standard being applied by the police force. Why can’t police take a more conciliatory and cooperative approach rather than hitting out with a surprise $5000 fine. They’ll say”Rules are rules, we don’t make the laws, we just enforce them” to minorities or people they don’t like the look of, and then turn a blind eye or give just a warning to people they identify with. No wonder minority groups hate coppers.

  7. Could not agree more, it is outrageous that Miss Hunt was issued with a $5,000 fine for 300 people in a large outdoor field. Double standards and inconsistent rules has been the flavour of this behaviour from police. It seems its just make it up as you go with no consistent guidelines to follow and indeed it is obvious Lisa Hunt has been unfairly targeted.
    Her fines need to be revoked.


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