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Byron Shire
November 30, 2022

You have a lawful right to protest – so why are the police intimidating protesters in their homes?

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Previous protest held at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne. Photo www.greenleft.org.au

What happened to the right to protest? That is the question being asked after police have targeted Blockade Australia protesters over the last week in the lead up to the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney where a protest is planned for 4 November. Former NSW Magistrate, David Heilpern, told The Echo that there were a range of concerns with this type of behaviour from police especially as Australian’s have a lawful right to protest.

‘Over the last week police have undertaken an exercise in harassment and intimidation of people who participated in climate protests during the month of June this year,’ said a spokesperson for Blockade Australia. 

‘Police across the continent, under the directions of New South Wales’ Strike Force Guard, have turned up at the door to the homes of dozens of activists in the last week. People in Queensland, the ACT, Victoria and New South Wales have been subjected to these visits in relation to past protests (Blockade Australia) and an unrelated protest happening this week in Sydney.’

Strike Force Guard was set up in response to the Blockade Australia protest mobilisation at the Port of Botany in March this year, and since has worked to shut down protests from other groups like Fireproof Australia and now Blockade IMARC.

Blockade IMARC is a protest against the International Mining and Resources Conference. The conference is normally held in Melbourne but this year will be held in Sydney after years of protests outside of the Melbourne-based conference saw it move north. Blockade Australia and Blockade IMARC have no connection, other than both protests being majorly concerned about the climate and ecological crisis. 

One of the people who received visits from the police in Newcastle said, ‘This is a frightening precedent. Police are going to the homes of dozens of people and are telling the people who live in those homes that if they attend a protest they will be arrested.’

Retired magistrate David Heilpern. Photo Jeff Dawson

Lawful right to protest

‘The reports of actions by Strike Force Guard are deeply concerning for four main reasons,’ said Mr Heilpern. 

‘First, lawful protest is (by definition) legal. There is a constitutional right to freedom of speech, and attending at a mining conference and holding a placard and voicing your concerns is not illegal providing notice has been given. The police ought not be trying to deter people from protesting. 

‘Second, one would have thought that the police would have better things to do. Maybe they could pay as much attention to domestic violence offenders and illegal logging than trying to stop those wanting to protect the planet by protesting against mining.

Overkill

‘Third, the police should not be seen to be taking sides in what will become increasingly common standoffs between polluters and saviours. Why not warn off the mining companies and tell them to use Zoom if they are really worried about public safety and disruption. After all, the protest is just as legal as the conference,’ he explained.

‘Finally, this is bullying. To have armed police knocking on people’s doors who have previously attended protests because you think they might go to another protest (even though they are thousands of kilometres apart, and run by different organisations) is designed to intimidate and scare. It is overkill, overreach and overdone.’

Protest 4 November

According to Blockade IMARC there will be a protest on Friday the 4 November outside the International Mining and Resources conference which is being hosted at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour.

‘Australia, and in particular New South Wales, cannot be called a democracy if the courts, government, industry and police are all working together to squash protests against the climate crisis in the same year that most of the east coast has gone underwater in unprecedented floods at one point or another,’ said the Newcastle Blockade Australia protester.

People within the Blockade Australia network have recorded all the instances of police intimidation over the last week and are working with human rights organisations to push back on this infringement upon the right to protest. 


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5 COMMENTS

  1. The police force in Australia are, and always have been, an army at the disposal of the wealthy, and are armed and ready to use deadly force to subjugate any who dare question the justice of this system, which is in effect the opposite of a democratic government, I.E. where ordinary citizens have input into all decisions, for the betterment of the Nation.
    Staging an election every three to four years does NOT equate to democracy. The system we have here has evolved from the rules imposed on convicts, in chains, who were subject to floggings for any insurrection.
    Cheers, G”)

  2. ‘Big Brother’ is on the march to our doorsteps.
    Lets save the Police all this bother and just get on with micro chipping every citizen.

  3. Thank you David for yet again a good legal perspective and knowledge. This matter should be taken to the ABC 7.30 report No?

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