Organisers of Saturday’s “Whose Street? Our Street – Oxford St Party” and protest march have not lodged a notification of intention to hold a public assembly with the NSW Police Force, risking a confrontation with police if they try to stop traffic by marching on Oxford Street.
Not lodging a “notification of intention” with the NSW Police does not make a protest illegal in itself. So protesters will not be breaking the law by gathering in Hyde Park at 9pm at the start of the event or by assembling in Taylor Square at the end of the march where there will be an open mic and drag performances.
However if marchers try to enter traffic to travel up Oxford Street on the road surface rather than the footpath without police managing traffic, participants could potentially be arrested under section 144G of The Roads Act 1993 which criminalises causing serious disruption by protesting illegally on public roads.
If prosecuted they could face penalties of up to $22,000 or two years in jail, or both under new laws passed by the NSW Government in April last year.
In December last year, climate activist Deanna Coco was sentenced to fifteen months in prison for blocking one lane of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 25 minutes, though an appeal of that sentence is still before the courts.
As it takes seven days for a notification of intention to be given authorisation by the Commissioner of the NSW Police it is now too late for one to be lodged.
The lack of a protest permit for the event became public knowledge yesterday after questioning by Instagram based news service @GaySydneyNews (GSN).
“Our safety is in numbers – it is not in the hands of the police,” a Pride in Protest spokesperson told GSN’s Eliot Hastie in response to questioning about the lack of a “notification of intent” being lodged for the event.
So far 183 people have indicated they will be attending the march on Facebook while another 850 are “interested” in the event.
While Pride in Protest are not cooperating with the NSW Police due to their organisation’s police abolition stance, the police are aware that the event is taking place and theoretically could still try to provide traffic management for the event like they do for authorised protests.
However they could also issue a “move on” order on protesters attempting to enter traffic and then arrest them if they fail to comply.
If you are attending the event we recommend you read this resource by the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) about your right to protest and what to do if you are arrested by the police: www.nswccl.org.au/right_to_protest
NSWCCL stress the following points:
-It is not an offence to participate in a protest. However, you may be charged with an offence arising from your conduct whilst participating in a protest.
-The police must identify themselves when arresting you and must also declare the reason/s for arrest.
-Under certain circumstances, you are legally required to provide your name and address to the police. However, you have the right to remain silent in response to any further questions.
-The police may seize your phone if they have reasonable suspicion that it is stolen, has been used to commit an offence or contains evidence of an offence. You are not required to provide them with your passcode if they do not hold a warrant.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.