Supreme Court bans Wollongong Black Lives Matter protest

Organisers have vowed to hold the rally regardless of the Supreme Court ruling that prohibited the demonstration. Picture: Supplied
Organisers have vowed to hold the rally regardless of the Supreme Court ruling that prohibited the demonstration. Picture: Supplied

NSW Police has won its bid in the Supreme Court to have a Wollongong Black Lives Matter protest banned.

The protest, which was scheduled to take place at 1pm on Saturday at the Crown Street Mall amphitheatre, has been moved to McCabe Park.

Jasmine Duff, who is part of the local group organising the rally on behalf of the National Union of Students' anti-racist division, said organisers viewed the ban as a blatant attack upon freedom of speech and political expression.

"This ban is outrageous, and we are determined to go ahead. It is clearly a politically motivated attack upon freedom of speech," she said.

"It has been prohibited on health grounds, but this is hypocritical.

"Already clubs are open with over 500 people allowed in, and cities with a similar number of cases as Wollongong are allowing crowds to return to football matches.

"For the courts to deem the protest illegal while other gatherings such as sports events are normal, is an expression of how political arguments critical of the government and the police are being silenced."

Ms Duff said the protest aimed to raise demands about police brutality and systemic racism against Indigenous people.

"What about the health of the 437 Aboriginal people who have died in police custody since 1991?" she said.

"What about those who will be killed in the future if no drastic effort is made to turn the tide?

"We will march for their lives tomorrow, and we encourage everyone who wants to fight alongside us to join us."

On Wednesday, organisers were sent a letter from the Commissioner of Police which requested the protest not be held due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.

NSW Police applied to the Supreme Court for an order to prohibit the rally after organisers did not call off the protest before 9am Thursday.

Organisers fought the legal action as they believe in the need to protest for an end to all Aboriginal deaths in custody and express solidarity with overseas protests fighting for justice for George Floyd and a stop to police brutality.

Gundungurra activist and protest organiser Trish Levett said "we will not back down until legislation is changed to stop police brutality and the injustices of the corrupt systems murdering our people."

"No justice no peace. You won't keep us quiet," she said.

"We need to be the voices of those that were murdered in custody, that have gone home to the dreaming, who cannot rest until they have justice. Black lives matter.

"As a sovereign woman I will still be leading my people and other community members in unity in the street.

"We will keep fighting the injustice and the racism we are now being targeted by a corrupt white system to try and keep us quiet."

Ms Duff said the court ruling meant it was even more important for people to attend the rally because it would not only oppose racism and police brutality, but would also take a stand for civil liberties.

"The pandemic had not stopped the police from killing black people either in Australia or the USA," she said. "That means we need to keep fighting."

Ms Duff said social distancing measures would be taken, including organising the rally in a location where attendees are able to be spread with four square metres to a person, as well as enforcing masks be worn.

She pointed to the fact that there has been only one case of community transmission in Wollongong and its surrounds over the past six weeks, and that the previous protest in Wollongong did not lead to any spike in cases despite gathering a crowd in the thousands.

The court denied an application by police that organisers pay the legal costs for NSW Police.

We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Be the first to get breaking Illawarra news by subscribing to our newsletters below ...

This story Supreme Court bans Wollongong Black Lives Matter protest first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.