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Australia Supreme Court grants order to block refugee protest on Brisbane's Story Bridge

10:26  13 august  2020
10:26  13 august  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Queensland's Supreme Court has granted an order prohibiting a planned sit-in protest on Brisbane's Story Bridge this weekend.

The demonstration was initially planned for last weekend, but was postponed late Friday while organisers met with authorities to try to negotiate an agreement.

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State Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath was granted the injunction to ban organisers from attending, citing concerns about coronavirus.

During the week, protest organisers from Refugee Action Collective Queensland and Refugee Solidarity Brisbane/Meanjin could not reach an agreement with authorities, and vowed the action would go ahead this Saturday.

Activists have been protesting against the ongoing detention detention of about 120 refugees and asylum seekers in a Kangaroo Point hotel, near the bridge.

More than 3,000 people had expressed interest on social media in attending the protest.

Today, the Attorney-General lodged a second Supreme Court injunction, which was also granted.

Justice Jean Dalton declared that if Saturday's planned protest at the Story Bridge and Kangaroo Point were to go ahead, it would be "an interference with public rights".

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Justice Dalton banned several organisers from attending or encouraging others to attend the protest, and ordered the refugee rights groups to post the Supreme Court declaration on their websites and social media pages.

Counsel for the Attorney-General, Gim Del Villar, told the court it was clear the protest intended to be disruptive and breach public rights.

"Closure of the Story Bridge or a sit-down protest on Main Street [in Kangaroo Point] would have considerable disruptive consequences and would pose a risk to community safety," Mr Del Villar said.

"Not simply because of the potential delay for ambulances that might want to use the bridge and Main Street, but also because ... there's a Queensland Fire and Rescue Service based on the northern end that uses the bridge to come down."

'It becomes unsafe'

Counsel for the Queensland Human Rights Commission, Paula Morreau, said protest action on Main Street "would not have the same impact".

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"Disruption to pedestrian and vehicle traffic is really par for the course in many protest events," Ms Morreau said.

"There has already been several protests that have obstructed Main Street."

Justice Dalton said it was the type of protest that was of primary concern, as social distancing could not be enforced.

"If it's this sort of civil disobedience sit-down protest where they're intending to stay in position, defying the law and defying police action to remove them, then it doesn't really matter if it's in Main Street or any other road," Justice Dalton said.

"It becomes unsafe doesn't it? In terms of the COVID pandemic, to have police officers having to physically pick them up and sort of man-handle them off whatever road it is.

"It's not just some people walking along in the traditional protest march with banners and slogans and musical instruments.

"It's not like a football game where a whole lot of people get together, but because there's a framework in the seating they're not going to be very close to each other.

"There's nothing to frame where people sit and there's nothing to protect the police.

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"The protesters are inviting police action and inviting police to remove them, and that puts the police at risk."

Refugee and asylum seeker advocacy groups have been threatening to shut down the Story Bridge for weeks if their demands were not met.

These include:

  • No more forced transfers to high-security facilities
  • Permission for those in detention to exercise and connect with the community
  • Detainees to be released by Christmas

Justice Dalton told the court she accepted that the right to protest was an important part of Australian society, but said the nature of this protest was "unusual".

"It's one that is expressly in defiance of the law and which is aimed at having protesters arrested," Justice Dalton said.

"It is also, by its nature, more likely than a traditional sort of protest to block the major thoroughfares of the Story Bridge and Main Street and, by its nature I think, more than likely to spread COVID-19."

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