Police outnumber protesters 2:1 at BLM rally
An illegal Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney fizzled in the rain last night, following stern warnings from police they would not shy away from using force to shut down the crowd - and with the Prime Minister warning attendance would "put lives at risk".
Only a few hundred protesters, well below the 3000 who pledged support on social media, turned out in the rain for the protest, which was moved from Town Hall to Hyde Park at the last minute.
The surprise change in location was triggered after hundreds of masked and armed police converged on Town Hall hours before the rally was due to start in a strong show of force.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said 600 police officers outnumbered protesters two to one.
"As you've seen this evening a significant police presence was put on the ground to deal with any eventuality when it came to what was an unauthorised public gathering," he said.
"It's disappointing to acknowledge that around 300 people chose to ignore the warnings."
Once police and protesters faced off at Hyde Park, there were ugly scenes as protesters swore at officers and shouted abuse via megaphones while brandishing signs and refusing to follow police directions.
A 24-year-old Panania woman was arrested and fined $1000 for failing to follow a police order.
NSW Police Superintendent Gavin Wood used a megaphone to tell the crowd they were "unlawful and they must disperse" but he was drowned out by protester Lizzy Jarrett, who stood next to him with her own megaphone.
Winning the shouting contest, Ms Jarrett, whose cousin David Dungay died in custody at Long Bay Jail in 2015, shouted: "F … the police they don't care about black lives." Ms Jarrett was given a move-on direction by police, prompting the crowd to cry out: "Too many coppers and not enough justice."
Teenage activist Alex Mia, 17, led the chants as a group moved through Hyde Park.
He told The Saturday Telegraph he joined the protest to stand in solidarity with black people in Australia.
"I want to stand with them, I want to support them," he said. "The government does not want to address this issue. We are protesting so they have to."
By 6.50pm, Supt Wood told protesters if they did not leave they would be arrested.
"This is a warning - disperse or you will be arrested," he said.
The hordes of people started to leave when Ms Jarrett took the microphone and told them to go home.
"(We're) happy with today. I don't want any more lives brutalised by police," she told The Daily Telegraph.
"No arrests is a win."
The rally had been deemed illegal as the organiser had not submitted the needed paperwork seven days before the event and it breached health rules prohibiting mass gatherings.
The protest caused peak-hour disruptions for commuters, with light rail services canned between Central and Circular Quay.
Last night's protest was organised by the same activists who put together last weekend's massive Black Lives Matter protest, which attracted an estimated 20,000 people.
And refugee advocates pushing for another rally today at the same location vowed to go ahead in a "modified" form despite the NSW Supreme Court ruling it should be prohibited.
The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney claimed: "COVID is dangerous but these refugees have been in seven years' detention, isn't that dangerous too?
"Ending the racist refugee policies in Australia can't wait several months more," the organisation said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy warned people should not attend the crowded rallies, saying their actions "would put lives at risk".
"For the rallies and protests that are planned for this weekend, the medical advice hasn't changed," Mr Morrison said.
"The medical advice is this is an unsafe thing to do. It puts not only your own health at risk but it puts other people's lives at risk.
"I would strongly encourage people to exercise that responsibility by not attending those events and respect their fellow Australians."
He also said he did not believe there should be a "double standard".
"There should be no two sets of rules in this country when it comes to this," Mr Morrison said
But the Public Health Association late yesterday came out supporting the rallies and suggested authorities take responsibility for putting in place safety measures for the demonstrators.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian asked the protesters to co-operate with the police.
"Lots of people do vent their frustration out on the front line," she said. "We don't want that to happen."
Police Minister David Elliott warned protesters to expect to be arrested if they flout the rules.
"NSW Police will be out in full force over the weekend to issue fines against those flouting the health orders. If you disregard the move on directions of police officers, you can expect to be arrested."
ACTIVISTS SHARE TIPS ON HOW TO BEAT COPS
Protest groups are issuing detailed legal and practical guides to demonstrators on how to counter and thwart the police, including how to avoid being subjected to alleged "kettling" by the riot squad in small spaces.
One of the organising groups - a Sydney University student body - is even running a workshop tomorrow on how to counter police equipment such as handcuffs, surveillance equipment and tear gas.
Titled Stand Up To The State, the organisers claim the NSW Police "will commit acts of brutality … this shows that we need to be better prepared for these types of confrontations in the future".
Other groups, including the Australian Communist Party, have also jumped on the bandwagon - sending out instructions such as "Nobody Talks, Everybody Walks, Don't Talk to Cops".
Many of the protest groups have posted legal notes for people not to speak to police except to give their names and address if required, to film the police and refuse to hand over their mobile phone or be voluntarily searched.
"You do not have to speak to police at a protest, except to give your name, date of birth and address," the Anti Colonial Asian Alliance says.
"Write the numbers of legal aid and a friend on your body where it won't rub off.
"If you are approached by police, remember to ask 'Am I committing an offence?'.
"Do not consent to a voluntary search."
Vision of footage from last week's protests has been shared by organisers, who claim scenes at Central train station of demonstrators attacking police were in fact "kettling".
"The Public Order and Riot Squad used a tactic called 'kettling' against protesters - pushing them into a confined space inside Central station and deployed pepper spray without warning on the group," Extinction Rebellion stated. Other organisers said to avoid small spaces.
The Aboriginal Legal Service is sharing its free legal hotline on protest websites and Youth Law Australia said indigenous people should make sure to inform police of their background, as police are bound by rules when speaking to indigenous people including ringing the Aboriginal Legal Service before asking questions.
"Stay hydrated, pack snacks, travel in small groups and check in on each other," the organisers say.
Originally published as Police outnumber protesters 2:1 at BLM rally